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Chase CIO Gill Haus Discusses Recruitment, Agile, and Automation

Chase CIO talks about how his bank trains its engineers to make use of the cloud, machine learning, and other resources to adapt to consumer demand.

The world of banking and finance faces aggressive change in innovation, increasing the need to adapt to new evolutionary cycles in financial technology. As customers want more resources and guidance with their finances, institutions such as JPMorgan Chase must nimbly respond in a way that belies their large size.

Gill Haus, CIO of consumer and community banking (Chase) at JPMorgan Chase, spoke with InformationWeek about his institution’s approach to finding the right tech talent to meet demands for innovation, the growing importance of automation, and the personal directives he follows.

When looking at technology recruitment, what skillsets is Chase seeking, both to meet current needs and also for what may come next?

At the root of what we do, we are in the business of building complex features and services for our customers. We have about 58 million digitally active customers; they depend heavily on the services we provide. Technology is behind all those products and services we offer. We are looking for the quintessential engineers that have the background in Java, machine learning engineers, those that have mobile experience as well. We also have technologies that are in “heritage” -- systems that we’ve had for many years and we’re looking for engineers that understand how to use those technologies. Not just to support them but to modernize them. The key of our practice is to make sure also that we have those engineers and talent in general that is adaptable … because the market is constantly changing.

Why this is important is not just so we can have talent come in and help us build great solutions; it is also a great opportunity for talent to grow themselves. We provide our employees opportunities to use those new technologies whether it’s public cloud, private cloud, or machine learning. Also, to grow the breadth of their experiences, whether they’re working on mobile technologies, backend systems, or some other solution that touches millions and millions of customers. We offer our employees the opportunity, whether they are an entry-level software engineer, we have programs like our software engineer program where we bring in talent from universities and boot camps to do training. We offer things across the organization where our talent can contribute and learn with teams to build solutions, learn how to use other technology, and become more adaptable.

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Gill Haus, JPMorgan Chase

Are there particular technologies or methodologies that have come into play of late that Chase has wanted to adopt or look at?

We’ve made a large move to be an agile organization to organize around our products versus organizing around our businesses. The reason for that is we need to be able to build solutions quickly and those local teams -- the product, technology, data, and design leaders -- they’re more able to see what’s happening in the market, make decisions quickly, decide what to build or what service to provide, and make sure we’re applying that for our customer versus being organized in a way that makes it more difficult to operate.

The move to an agile work style is really key for us to compete.

The other [part] is the skills themselves. At our scale, machine learning absolutely. We have tons of data about our customers, on how customers are using our products. Customers ask us to provide them insights or guidance. If you go into our mobile app, we have something called Snapshot that tells you how you’re spending money compared to other people like you, ways you can save. Machine learning is the essence and power behind making that happen.

Mobile engineering is also incredibly important for us because more and more of our customers are moving to be digitally active in the mobile space. We want to be where our customers are.

What isn’t often talked about is a lot of our backend services, which is the main Java programming that we do, empowers all of this. From APIs to public cloud because when you deposit money, you’re using those rails. When you are executing machine learning models, you’re still using a lot of those rails.

While we are focused on a lot of the new, we’re also focused on modernizing the core that we have because that is so fundamental to the services we provide.

In terms of scouting tech talent, is there an emphasis on finding brand new graduates of schools that offer the latest skills, retraining existing staff to make use of their institutional knowledge as well?

All the above. The purpose-driven culture we have is really a big factor for us. Money is at the center of people’s lives. If you can create a positive experience for customers in using their money, whether they are able to save more, to pay for something they didn’t expect, or prevent fraud for them, it provides an incredible positive benefit to that individual. That’s important. Many of the people joining, or already at that firm, want to have that positive impact.

One of our software engineering programs is called Tech Connect, which is how we get in software engineers who might not have come in through the traditional software engineering degrees. It’s a way for them to go through training here and find a role within the organization. We also have the software engineering program where we look at entry level candidates coming in from colleges with computer science and other engineering degrees. For employees that we have here, we have programs like Power Up, which is at 20 JPMorgan Chase technology centers where over 17,000 employees meet on an annual basis. There they learn all different types technologies, from machine learning, to data, to cloud. That allows us not only to have people that are here be trained but it makes it compelling to join the firm.

What are some of your guiding principles as a CIO?

We want to remove roadblocks from people being about to do the jobs we want them to do so they can build incredible experiences for our customers. That is a main focus for us, but also diversity. Diverse teams are more innovative, are more productive. We should be doing that. Plus, we know our customers are diverse and we should reflect that as well.

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