Royal Bank of Canada is building up technology centers across Canada, beyond its Toronto headquarters, to help attract skilled workers in a tight labor market.
The bank’s current focus is on its Calgary innovation hub, where it’s looking to reach 300 employees by the end of next year. The center, with about 65 staffers, opened in September as a hub for tech strategy and research, innovation, data and artificial intelligence, site-reliability engineering and automation, with some full-stack software workers based at the location as well.
Royal Bank also has other tech centers around Canada, including a 200-person Montreal hub for cybersecurity, tech infrastructure and artificial intelligence, and a center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with more than 600 workers focused on tech support, machine learning and full-stack engineering. The hubs are part of Royal Bank’s efforts to attract the country’s best tech talent at a time of heightened competition, said Emily Mercier, chief operating officer for Royal Bank’s technology and operations division.
“The hub strategy really extends our reach,” Mercier said in an interview. “Having people in more regions in Canada allows us to diversify the location of our services, increasing the breadth and depth of our talent.”
Royal Bank Chief Executive Officer Dave McKay said earlier this year that the availability of workers — especially skilled technologists — was among his top concerns for this year. The lender, which has about 10,000 workers in technology and operations worldwide, is on track to hire 2,000 tech workers overall this year and a similar number next year, Mercier said. That’s also about as many as it hired in 2021.
Royal Bank’s recruiting and retention pitch for those workers includes an engineering culture that provides constant learning opportunities, the chance to work on cutting-edge technologies and work-life balance, Mercier said. The bank also gives tech workers a variety of career paths because it reaches 17 million clients and has multiple global businesses, she said.
Even amid a darkening economic outlook and job cuts at startups and crypto companies such as Coinbase Global Inc. and BlockFi Inc., Mercier said the market for tech talent is still hot and she doesn’t see it cooling soon. While the broader market may eventually soften, demand for tech workers is a long-term trend, and Royal Bank will always be interested in those skills, she said.
“Building the digital bank of the future requires us to have a very strong bench strength of tech talent,” Mercier said. “So even if there are some changes in market conditions in the short term, it’s not going to affect our long-term approach.”
–by Kevin Orland