Monday, March 17, 2014

BofA sponsors tech awards as it competes for IT talent

Bank of America, at an event in Charlotte this past weekend, honored 35 female high school students for their achievements in computing and technology.

The bank’s ongoing sponsorship of the event comes at a time when the financial sector is trying to compete with other industries for top tech talent.

Since 2008, the Charlotte bank has been the national sponsor of the National Center for Women & Information Technology’s Aspirations in Computing Award. A ceremony for this year’s winners was held Saturday at the Charlotte Ritz-Carlton.

The event helps the students as they pursue careers in the tech industry (each winner receives $500, a laptop and the opportunity to meet IT leaders at Bank of America ).

But the bank’s involvement in the event also has the potential to help it fill IT jobs with young, fresh-minded tech workers. As a report this year from consulting firm Oliver Wyman points out, the financial services industry has “been slow” to attract and grow tech employees as the industry’s digital presence increases.

The financial sector, the report says, has had trouble competing for such talent with “information” businesses, such as Google and Apple.

Perhaps, then, it’s no surprise that Denise Menelly, head of Shared Service Operations for Bank of America, calls Aspirations in Computing “one of the most important” events the bank sponsors.

In an interview with the Observer, Menelly said there’s “a disconnect” between the supply of talented people in technology and the growing need for those employees across various industries, not just banking. As a result, the competition for such employees is growing, too, she said.

Bank of America, the second-largest U.S. bank, has a major technology operation that employs roughly 100,000 people worldwide. In January, CEO Brian Moynihan said the company spends $3 billion a year on technology development, such as for mobile banking.

Menelly said Bank of America needs tech workers who can help the bank come up with products and services that “we can’t even anticipate today.” That creates a need, she said, for “fresh minds thinking differently.”

Even as it looks for tech talent, the bank has made cuts in its technology work force. In January, that bank disclosed layoffs of an undisclosed number of tech workers, including some in Charlotte.

According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, women account for only 18 percent of bachelor’s degrees in computer and information sciences. Menelly said getting young women involved in computer science at an early age is critical to increasing the number who go on to have careers in technology.

The bank’s sponsorship of the event has helped it fill tech jobs. Menelly said the bank has also given some of the winners internships.

“Any time we can get our hands on them, we will,” she said. “I need talent.”

But as they try to lure talent, financial institutions also face an image problem, according to the Oliver Wyman report:

Financial services is a far less attractive career than it was, at least in the U.S. and Europe. Financial rewards are being reduced by lower returns, by new rules on compensation, and by relentless political and media scrutiny. The work is increasingly dominated by regulatory compliance and managing legal and headline risk, rather than growing the core business. Innovation is being stifled by product regulation and legal peril. And the prestige of the job is diminished. Many firms are culling “revenue seats”; employment growth now comes from compliance.