By Cathy Chan
JPMorgan Chase & Co. is hiring more engineering, neuroscience and psychology graduates across Asia-Pacific , diversifying away from students with finance backgrounds as it seeks to adapt its workforce to the region’s fast-changing economies.
Of the roughly 1,000 graduates who will start in JPMorgan’s class of 2018 this June, 39 percent have degrees in subjects other than business or finance, the highest proportion in data going back three years. Instead, this group comprises scientists and mathematicians, and students of international relations and psychology. The data excludes India , where technology hires typically dominate.
As finance and technology converge and politics and regulations play an ever-increasing role in banking, the need for people schooled in disciplines ranging from computing to political science is growing, said John Hall, who co-heads the New York-based bank’s Asia-Pacific investment banking unit.
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“It’s easy to hire finance people because culturally they fit right in, they’ve been trained,” Hall said in an interview in Hong Kong last week. “But it’s a short-sighted view if you only hire finance people, at some point, you’re lacking some of the diversity that makes for better problem solving.”
About 40 percent of JPMorgan’s class of 2018 will focus on client coverage across 12 Asia-Pacific markets, while the rest will support corporate functions, many of which are technology-related. Fintech financing in Asia eclipsed North America for the first time in 2016, more than doubling to $11.2 billion from $5.2 billion in 2015, according to data from consultancy firm Accenture.
“The velocity of change is much higher in Asia, particularly in China , than the rest of the world,” Hall said. “So having a broader mix of people increases your ability to adapt and stay either ahead of or with your clients.”
The demand for non-finance hires is clear. Science and technology students account for about 20 percent of recent recruits at Morgan Stanley and humanities make up another 5 percent. Siam Commercial Bank Pcl, Thailand’s oldest homegrown lender, is wooing technology experts from companies abroad to work on projects like robo-advisers, and bankers and billionaires are setting up liberal arts universities in India to meet rising industry demand.
JPMorgan has stepped up hiring from local universities in the Asia-Pacific region; 40 percent of the class of 2018 compared with 30 percent a year earlier. Of the roughly 30,000 applications it receives each year, about 33 percent were from non-finance or business students in the latest round, up from 26 percent previously.
That’s partly because JPMorgan is widening its talent hunt and it doesn’t mean that finance will go out of fashion anytime soon, Hall said.
“We’re very happy with our finance people,” he said. “But the reality is also that in trying to get as many bright, capable people, you broaden your reach.”