As fintech grows in Delaware, so does its potential
WILMINGTON – The Wilmington city skyline has been dominated by the names of some of the country’s biggest banks for decades, but a growing number of those employed by them are not traditional bankers and loan officers.
The growth of financial services technology, or so-called fintech, has led to a boom of high-tech jobs in Delaware that look more like something one might envision at Google than WSFS Bank.
Corynn Ciber, chief digital officer at WSFS, explained that the regional bank is using technologists to help modernize its processes. She heads the bank’s Delivery Transformation Program, which kicked off following the acquisition of Philadelphia-based Beneficial Bank in 2019.
“We know that we could get to a place where when a customer walks into a branch, somebody in that branch already knows why they are there. We know we can get there,” she said.
That technological leap will likely be assisted by artificial intelligence (AI) that will help WSFS provide a more efficient experience for associates and customers, and in turn making the bank more competitive.
“Not necessarily to compete with the bigger banks, but certainly outperform other banks our size,” she said.
In the same city, JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the country, is looking to similarly utilize technologists to push its products and services into the future.
Diane Rogerson, the site leader for Chase’s Delaware Tech Center and the company’s technology managing director for data delivery and analytics, explained that Chase is exploring the use of machine learning and AI to pre-emptively anticipate a customer’s needs, such as calling into customer service soon after a late payment fee was issued to an account to get a first offense waived.
“You might never talk to a human and, in less than 60 seconds, you’ve resolved your concern because on the back end, we can see your transactions, we can see your charges and fees, and machine learning will anticipate what you’re actually calling us about,” she said.
While these tasks are still ideas under development, Delaware’s financial services companies are hiring dozens of technologists from local coding camps like Zip Code Wilmington, Tech Impact, Code Differently, and Tech Elevator as well as from Delaware’s universities every year.
This workforce development will only grow with the opening of the FinTech Center at the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus. The $38 million joint project between Discover Bank, the Delaware Technology Park and the university is on schedule to open by the end of the year.
In addition to WSFS and Chase, M&T Bank, Capital One, Barclays, Bank of America and Citibank are also looking to hire technologists.
Chase has hired over 200 Zip Code graduates since 2015, including more than 30 last year amid the pandemic. WSFS has hired scores too, and Ciber is filling 18 positions on her initiative this year.
Rogerson explained that while some technologists are working on ideas of tomorrow, many are busy ensuring that today’s programs are responsive to customer needs, ranging from deposit accounts to credit cards to loan servicing.
“We have thousands of applications in JPMorgan Chase that need to be modernized. Rewriting and re-engineering that code is a mountain of work that will keep our Java programmers busy for quite a number of years,” she said.
Recent hires have worked on Chase’s mortgage origination and online credit card application processes. With an operation as large as Chase’s though, it is common to spend a few months or years on a particular product or challenge and then transfer to something new, Rogerson added.
“There is a ton of growth and mobility for them inside what is a very large tech organization,” she said, noting that the majority of her technologists – about 2,200 of the 3,300 in Delaware – are based at Chase’s Powder Mill Road campus in north Wilmington. Others are spread out to cover division needs at offices across New Castle County.
At WSFS, technologists working at the bank’s Wilmington and Philadelphia offices have been streamlining processes and building a customer information database to improve marketing efforts and customer service.
In one example, Ciber explained that a customer looking to pay off a loan could have that request handled by several different departments and teams within WSFS’ lending operation, taking three to five days to ultimately be completed. The bank is looking to use technology to streamline the approval process and cut down on the time to completion of such requests, she said.
Ciber said that the bank’s needs run the gamut on technical knowledge but are above an entry-level position.
“While we’re hiring people with coding skills right now, I also need people who are wicked smart in Microsoft Power BI, so they can create dashboards, run reports and provide that view to our leadership team,” she said.
While WSFS remains committed to its brick-and-mortar presence in the communities it serves, Ciber said that its growing technology focus will aim to meet consumers in new ways, especially after many of them complete banking online through the pandemic.
“We’re trying to expand the number of products that customers have with WSFS and change the ways in which we offer those products,” she said. “2020 has changed the way in which many people bank. It has modified the need for how many times people go to the branch and what they go to the branches for, so we need to be able to provide banking differently in the post-COVID era.”