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The 'Cool' Factor: How Banks Can Attract Top Candidates to the IT Workforce

Bank CIOs are going to have to work harder to recruit the best IT talent as the importance of technology in banking continues to increase. We ask some of this year's Elite 8 how bank tech leaders can attract the IT workforce of the future.

As the importance of technology in banking continues to rise, building a strong technology organization is a growing priority for financial services CIOs. But bank technology leaders are going to have to compete harder to recruit top IT talent.

More than ever, technology is critical for banks in meeting customers' expectations for anytime, anywhere banking via the channels of their choice. And as those expectations increase, the need to find the right people to help provide the appropriate service will only intensify. As a result, finding new and effective ways to hire the best and brightest in IT is a top challenge for many banks.

"The financial services industry is going through a fundamental change where banking is essentially a digital industry," remarks Julie Elberfeld, managing VP and commercial CIO at Capital One Bank. "We have an incredible appetite for technology and attracting the best and brightest in all fields, especially in technology."

Over the past two years, Elberfeld has had to expand the IT team tenfold at Capital One's commercial bank to attain the skills and capacity needed to build a new commercial banking infrastructure from scratch. When Elberfeld arrived at Capital One, her team totaled 28; today she oversees as many as 250.

She suggests that the key to attracting the best talent is creating a work culture and environment that includes great benefits, flexible work arrangements and the right technologies that appeal to top IT professionals. Elberfeld stresses that this last point will become even more important as younger IT professionals, who have grown up with cutting-edge consumer technology, are going to have higher expectations for the technology tools they use at work. And the younger generation of IT professionals, she adds, seems to really thrive in an environment where they feel they have a tangible impact on the business.

Higher Education

Recruiting efforts at colleges and universities also are vital. Elberfeld says McLean, Va.-based Capital One has invested heavily in its college recruiting program. "In IT alone we've doubled the number of campus hires each year for the past four years," she reports. Capital One's campus hires go through an 18-month development program that rotates them through different roles in the IT organization to give them a full picture of the organization itself and to show them how much of an impact technology has on the company, Elberfeld says.

Bill Pappas, CIO for global wholesale banking technology and operations at Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America Merrill Lynch, also emphasizes the importance of college recruiting efforts. He says one of the key ways Bank of America is developing its technology and operations staff is through a partnership with the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. The program includes a combination of classroom case studies and "action learning projects" to help associates apply what they learn to the work environment.

"We have a very deliberate plan to attract talent that can adapt emerging technology capabilities to deliver in the marketplace and manage globally, and also have what I call a client-centric mind-set that can provide a consistent experience across the globe," Pappas says. He adds that with these kinds of efforts, he is very confident the bank can continue to attract great IT talent in the future.

Jonathan Camhi has been an associate editor with Bank Systems & Technology since 2012. He previously worked as a freelance journalist in New York City covering politics, health and immigration, and has a master's degree from the City University of New York's Graduate School ... View Full Bio

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