These banks are moving tech and product jobs to Philly, where the talent is – The Philadelphia Inquirer

TD Bank turns branch space into an “innovation lab” and Capital One says it’s “creating an environment that technology people want” in Center City.
While the work-from-home movement has emptied some law and corporate offices in Center City, software engineers and financial-product managers keep arriving. Two of the nation’s largest banks have lately announced they are expanding new-product centers here:
Capital One Financial Corp., based in Virginia, has leased the 37th floor of 1735 Market St., one of the Philadelphia’s tallest towers, and will open it next spring as one of the company’s two new technology and product development centers, said Jay Michelini, the bank’s head of technology strategy and operations.
“A lot of folks want to live in the city. So we’re creating an environment that technology people want,” said Michelini, a Chester County native.
And TD Bank Group, based in Toronto, has turned half of its U.S. subsidiary’s 15-year-old University City branch into an “innovation lab,” says its leader, Colleen Duke, who grew up in Burlington County.
With more customers banking remotely, “this is the best use for this space,” which includes rooms configured to test new products and services, such as ATMs with special customer-authentication features to deter fraud and “gamified” virtual-reality digital-banking apps, she said.
These are the latest companies to join Vanguard Group — a thoroughly suburban company with its main offices in Malvern, Chester County — which nevertheless opened a 17,000-square-foot “innovation center” at 2300 Chestnut St., back in 2017. That site continues to serve as the company’s base for young techies eager to live in the city and reluctant to make the hour-plus, twice-daily train-and-van commute to and from the investment giant’s main campus.
TD and Capital One rank among the top 10 U.S. banks; each accounts for more than a quarter of the $600 billion in deposits at all the banks in the metro Philadelphia region, according to federal bank data.
That’s mostly because they base national accounts at offices in the Wilmington area, where they can benefit from Delaware’s low taxes and liberal lending laws.
Capital One likes Wilmington, but officials there say it’s time to expand. Area hiring managers have complained that employer competition in such a small market — surrounding New Castle County accounts for less than one-tenth the 6.2 million people in Greater Philadelphia — has made hiring there extra tough. So Capital One’s Michelini plans to transfer two senior managers to the new Philadelphia center from Wilmington, where Capital One has an office tower and employs around 2,000. (Updated July 28, 2022 after Capital One revised an earlier number)
“We’re still very committed to Wilmington, but we know there’s more [in Pennsylvania], and we want to meet that talent where they are,” he said.
The office is accessible to suburban and city transit lines a few blocks away and by pedestrian tunnels. “Being in the city will give us a great presence point,” convenient to city neighborhoods and suburban trains, Michelini said.
The Capital One managers moving to Philadelphia — Amanda Cronin, vice president of product management, and Andrey Utis, vice president of engineering — will head a team of 100 software engineers, technical staff and product managers there, and report back to Michelini in Wilmington. The company has a similar urban tech office in Atlanta, a center of the payments industry.
Recent tech initiatives at Capital One — the kind of projects Michelini says will be built in Philadelphia — include an “Early Paycheck” option, which eliminates the two-day float many banks still impose on payroll-deposit customers by speeding up risk and fraud identification.
“The challenge is to make these decisions in real time and with less information,” Michelini said. “We use big data from millions of customers on a large scale.”
For Capital One, the Philadelphia office also serves as a college-recruiting magnet. “We are looking to grow our current partnerships” with area engineering schools, Michelini said.
The company also expects to boost involvement with nonprofits it has previously supported, such as the Coded by Kids and Tech Impact software-training programs, Hope Center at Temple University, and Boys’ Latin high school in West Philadelphia.
Capital One staff can work from home or the office, so Michelini said his staff is reviewing amenities they can add to make the office attractive.
The bank has few branches, preferring to work with customers remotely, though it does operate a Capital One Cafe near Rittenhouse Square and another in King of Prussia.
TD, by contrast, has one of the largest branch networks in the region, though, like competitors, it has been closing offices as more customers move online.
At its 6,000-square-foot University City office, leased from the neighboring University of Pennsylvania, TD has reduced it branch staff to 10, from 20, as more people bank remotely — and divided the rest into spaces for its product innovation teams, reporting to Duke and her bosses.
Those spaces include a “Collab” room for staff meetings, training and “brainstorming,” and for use by community groups such as the University City District and People’s Emergency Center; a “focus room,” where customers test new apps using virtual reality demonstrators, as well as physical products; an “observe room,” to watch the testers and evaluate their reactions through a two-way mirror; and a “build room” to produce new signs and digital merchandising aides, Duke said on a brief tour.
The testing is more effective because it takes place in a working branch familiar to customers, Duke added. The branch is also convenient to TD staff at offices in western Center City and a short drive from its U.S. headquarters in Marlton.
Among the projects TD is preparing to test at the University City site are the company’s “Odyssey” customer conversation system; “gamification” instructions for smartphone-banking users; banking for hearing and visually impaired customers; self-service kiosks, and new ATM hardware.
Proposed additional work for the center includes new workstation testing, “digital business card” development, software hack-athons, and adaption of augmented-reality and virtual-reality software to product testing.
Both TD and Capital One bought their Philadelphia-area office bases through acquisitions of innovative retail banks based in the area. TD purchased Vernon Hill’s South Jersey-based Commerce Bancorp in 2008, while Capital One acquired Arkadi Kuhlmann’s branchless ING Direct and its Wilmington headquarters in 2012.
“We’ve been in the greater Philly region for a decade. We know there’s great talent here,” Michelini said. “Now we’re meeting the talent where they area,” including Philadelphia.


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