Major Banks Increase AI Hiring Despite Industry-Wide Layoffs

Big banks are ramping up their hiring for artificial intelligence-focused roles, with 50 of the world’s largest banks showing a 9% increase in AI talent acquisition over the last six months, according to a new report from AI adoption research firm Evident. This rate of growth is double that of overall headcount increases in the banking sector, indicating a strategic emphasis on AI, even as many banks are implementing broader workforce reductions.

“AI is viewed as a critical strategic priority, which is why the banks’ AI talent volumes continue to grow at pace, seemingly immune from the ongoing reduction in force initiatives seen across the wider sector,” said Alexandra Mousavizadeh, co-founder and CEO of Evident.

The leading banks in AI talent acquisition are JPMorgan Chase, Capital One, and Wells Fargo, with JPMorgan holding nearly six times more AI staff than the average bank in Evident’s AI Index. The bank accounts for 11.5% of all AI talent within the banking industry and has consistently topped Evident’s AI Index reports, which rank the progress of the world’s 50 largest banks in AI adoption and advancement based on talent, innovation, leadership, and transparency.

Capital One, ranked second on the AI Index, has the highest AI talent density, with 12% of its overall headcount focused on AI, over four times the average bank in Evident’s index.

The increase in AI talent is particularly striking against a backdrop of layoffs at several major banks, including Citigroup, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, and Lloyds Bank, which have announced headcount reductions earlier this year. Despite these cuts, banks are bolstering their AI capabilities, signaling a significant shift in strategic focus.

Deutsche Bank and Lloyds Bank are notable examples of this trend. Deutsche Bank increased its global AI talent by 26.7% over the last six months—almost triple the index average—while Lloyds Bank doubled its data engineering force compared to its UK peers, despite both banks executing layoffs.

This trend in AI hiring underscores the growing competition for AI talent across industries. Tech giants like OpenAI and Meta are reportedly offering million-dollar compensation packages to attract top talent. The Biden administration also plans to hire over 100 AI professionals by summer 2024 and requires all federal agencies to designate chief AI officers.

Several banking chiefs highlighted AI’s potential during the first-quarter earnings season, with major banks investing in AI capabilities, including generative AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants. As competition for AI talent intensifies, those with early adoption strategies could hold a significant advantage.

“The top 10 banks for AI talent currently account for 51% of the overall banking industry talent pool,” noted Mousavizadeh. “If the banks that lag behind cannot close the gap, the race to implement AI will become an uphill struggle.”

The focus on AI roles has shifted from planning and development to implementation. Over the past six months, 68% of new AI talent in U.S. banks was concentrated on AI implementation, with staffing for these roles increasing by nearly 14% between November 2023 and April 2024.

As AI technology continues to advance, banks that successfully integrate and implement these tools could gain a competitive edge in a rapidly changing financial landscape.

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