By Peter Osborne
Conventional wisdom would tell you that the Delaware banking industry has taken a significant job hit thanks to mergers with out-of-state banks and recession-related downsizing. Phrases like "shedding jobs" and "layoffs" dot news stories and conversations about what's happened to the sector over the years.
Conventional wisdom would be wrong.
It's true that bank jobs in Delaware hit their peak in 2001 with 30,000 jobs and saw a steady decrease over the next 11 years to 25,000 in 2012, thanks to recession-related downsizing and the MBNA-Bank of America and First USA-JPMorgan Chase acquisitions. But the numbers have rebounded, with employment at credit-card banks and consumer banking operations increasing 11% to 27,730 at the end of the third quarter of 2018, according to data from the State Department of Labor.
But that only tells part of the story. Delaware employment at JPMorgan Chase has seen a 60% increase since 2010 - about 6,500 new people- to its current level of about 10,600 jobs, according to Market President Tom Horne. That's an increase of 100 jobs since the end of 2018 and the bank has 600 openings across Delaware that it's actively trying to fill.
Delaware companies report employment by NAICS, a system established in 1997 to classify organizations by the type of activity in which they are primarily engaged. And therein lies part of the problem with doing an apples-to-apples comparison of jobs over a nearly 30-year period.
"In banking, the distinction between credit-card issuing (NAICS 5222) and depository (5221) was never functional," says George Sharpley, chief of the Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information for the Delaware Department of Labor. "Many do both, and they have a tendency to report employment at different units differently over time."
It's not clear, for example, whether the 2,500 jobs at Chase's data center on Concord Pike (opened in late 2015) is part of the 27,730 number or are captured elsewhere. Nevertheless, Chase has already exceeded its original job projections for the site by 700 or so. Horne said the fact that Wilmington is one of Chase's 10 "strategic hubs" in the United States with jobs serving the broad spectrum of consumer-bank positions bodes well as you look at future growth projections.
Or take fintechs like College Ave Student Loans, Fair Square Financial, Marlette Funding, and the imminent arrival of Acorns, a millennial-centric mobile application that is looking for 30-50 former MBNA and First USA employees who helped lead the high growth in the 1990s and early 2000s. The fintechs are growing - thanks in large part to the availability of those bankers who were downsized or retired on their own years before - but are they counted in the core banking numbers?
"Fintechs can be in a variety of industries, depending on what they're actually doing," Sharpley said. "There is no current industry "fintech" in NAICS" so only those listing themselves as "finance" companies are showing up in the primary banking category.
Meaning you can add the fintech jobs to the discussion about whether banking jobs are rebounding. College Ave Student Loans CEO and Co-Founder Joe DePaulo weighed in.
"We believe part of our strength lies in our small, but highly talented team, which we've been able to construct because of the depth in the financial services sector in the Delaware area," he said. "Over the last five years, we've grown from a team of 10 to roughly 50 people at our Delaware headquarters and will continue to add new members in a thoughtful and meaningful way as our business scales."
And there's more.
The state is also seeing an explosion of "technologists" being hired at local banks, and it's not always clear which categories those jobs fall into.
M&T Bank and its Wilmington Trust subsidiary disclosed in March that they'll be filling more than 100 open positions in 2019 throughout the state - including half in Sussex County - as it grows through all lines of business. They will also hire about 200 "technologists" in the downtown Wilmington Plaza building over the next few years, including 50 by the end of 2019.
"We take pride in operating much like a fintech in accelerating our speed to market," M&T Delaware Region President Nick Lambrow told DBT in early March. "We realize that our competition is no longer just large banks, and we're of a size where we can act or react like a fintech."
M&T Chief Information Officer Mike Wisler says some of the growth is due to the bank needing to be "less dependent on outsourcing [because] buying other people's products mutes your ability to compete and create differentiated experiences."
Here's what a few other banks are saying about job growth:
"¢ Bank of America employs 6,400 people in Delaware. That's a decrease from published reports in recent years, but the numbers appear to be stabilizing and there are about 120 open positions on its website.
"¢ For Barclays U.S., there's been a lot of discussion since 2017 about jobs moving to an office park in Whippany, New Jersey. But a spokesman for the credit card and digital consumer banking operation says that the company did move 100 global technology roles to New Jersey in March 2018 with more likely to move as the office park there continues to be built out. "The Delaware operation has more than 2,000 employees; it's been our headquarters since 2000 and always will be," he said.
"¢ Capital One's Wilmington workforce has increased by "several hundred people" since its acquisition of ING Direct in 2012, according to Capital One representatives. The company recently brought all of its nearly 2,000 Wilmington-based associates side-by-side into newly-updated offices at 800 and 802 Delaware Ave. in an effort to enable teams to better collaborate and innovate in a contiguous workspace and provide access to modernized amenities. The company declined to share future growth projections but said it is "continuing to hire in the Wilmington market to support the teams based there."
"¢ WSFS has 94 open positions in Delaware and is experiencing an upswing in new roles because of organic growth and through mergers and acquisitions of organizations like Beneficial, said Vice President and Communications Manager Jimmy A. Hernandez.
WSFS has six tech-affiliated roles open in Delaware, including a new Chief Digital Officer position that is part of its "Delivery Transformation" initiative, which Hernandez said is a five-year investment in technology delivery systems "to enhance our already-compelling offering of digital and mobile solutions."