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CIBC tackles developer shortage with hackathons, skill training

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Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is managing a shortage of tech workers by training its developers in high-demand technologies including blockchain and Microsoft Azure, betting that such growth opportunities will help the lender retain current workers and attract outside talent.

CIBC Tackles Developer Shortage With Hackathons, Skill Training
Photo by Bloomberg/Mercury

With tech becoming increasingly important in the finance world, Canada’s banks are seeking to hire more developers, but they’re facing increased competition from startups and other firms. That’s resulting in soaring salaries and rising turnover rates, prompting Royal Bank of Canada Chief Executive Officer David McKay to list the battle for talent as one of his top concerns for this year.

“It’s probably the most competitive environment I’ve ever experienced in my 30 years in IT,” CIBC Chief Information Officer Richard Jardim said in an interview. “We used to compete against the banks and maybe some big tech — now it’s like we’re competing with everyone.”

To tackle the challenge, Toronto-based CIBC is focusing on providing current developers with new skills rather than looking externally for talent with the same capabilities. For example, the company has trained 2,000 workers — about two-thirds of its developers — on Microsoft Azure since CIBC struck a multiyear agreement in July to make the program its primary cloud platform.

Of those employees, about 350 have taken exams to receive full Azure certification, a desirable credential in the information-technology world that can cost as much as C$5,000 ($4,000) to receive, Jardim said.

The bank also partnered with Ethereum software company ConsenSys to train 450 tech workers in blockchain technology and participate in a hackathon to build products using those skills. The bank is working on a similar program in quantum computing for next year, Jardim said.

“These are the new, hot skills and emerging technologies,” Jardim said. “When we invest in that with folks, it definitely seems to retain talent, and it also attracts new talent to know that we’re focusing on these things.”

CIBC CEO Victor Dodig has signaled that his company is in growth mode and will be investing in tech staff and front-line, revenue-generating workers. The bank is looking to hire 700 to 900 technologists this year, Jardim said.

Room to grow graph
Graph by Bloomberg/Mercury

Still, CIBC’s turnover rate among tech workers is rising, as it is across the banking industry, Jardim said, declining to give specific figures.

CIBC is seeing salaries for tech workers rising from 10% to as much as 40% for those with certain skills, Jardim said. Among the specialties most in demand are cloud engineering, artificial intelligence, automation and process engineering, along with expertise in technologies such as Salesforce.com Inc.’s Pega platform, he said. There have also been rare, extreme cases in which workers in certain niches are seeking to double their pay, he said.

The shortage of tech talent is likely to eventually reach a “settlement point,” though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when that may happen, Jardim said.

“People may start to reduce some of their investments,” he said. “Then the market will correct.”

— By Kevin Orland (Bloomberg Mercury)





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