Long before President Mauricio Macri took office in Argentina – effectively turning the country into an investor sensation overnight – United States multinational bank J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JP Morgan) placed a savvy bet on the nation when it was still mired by default.
As a result, JP Morgan is now the top underwriter in Argentina, leaving Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Santander, and Citi in its wake, according to data from Bloomberg. Early this year, the bank announced that it would triple its Argentina workforce, also predicting that debt sales from the nation would soar to $30 billion.
With the inauguration of its Global Support Hub in Argentina last year, clearly the bank has been standing firmly by its predictions, as it represents the first Latin America-based center of its kind.
Primary Functions of the Hub
The center currently has 550 employees, most of which are with operations, performing back-office and middle-office functions, primarily supporting global processes and Latin America.
“We are migrating a lot of functions from the US and some from India,” said Clara Mendiberri, Location Leader for JP Morgan’s Buenos Aires Corporate Center. “Most of these processes are aligned to the US timezone, and were either supported by the US or by the nightshift in India before Argentina took them over.”
Next up, following in size, the new center has facilities for technology, for which it started hiring developers to support the different applications that JP Morgan businesses use across the board. This unit is mainly for supporting the Corporate and Investment Bank on a worldwide scale.
After operations and technology, there are other hubs with various responsibilities, including a team that is responsible for market research and document processing services for the Global Investment Bank, a team that does credit risk analysis for North American and Latin American clients and counterparties, and a number of other teams with smaller functions.
The next stage of hiring will come for what JP Morgan calls the “Global Technology Infrastructure Hub”. This unit will be dedicated to the infrastructure side of technology, including database and server maintenance, among other functions. Once again, the “Global” tag speaks for itself, as the hub will support all businesses across all countries.
The company aims to more than double its staff at the center in just over a year, with a target of approximately 1,200 employees by year-end 2017. This workforce will incorporate the infrastructure team and grow the other aforementioned functions within operations and technology.
“Before building this hub in Argentina, we had a branch operating there for several years, but we weren’t known as an employer that was actively hiring, mainly because a branch like that could never have grown exponentially,” said Mendiberri. “But now, with this new hub, branding and putting our name out in front of potential candidates is key. We’re investing a lot in building a robust recruiting team, focusing a lot on campus recruiting, gender diversity, and branding.”
As well as hiring developers, the hub has started hiring people for production management. These people support the same applications as the developers, but on a day-to-day basis, ensuring that any issues that the traders or business are facing within the applications are solved.
Around 95% of the hub’s employees originate from Argentina, but JP Morgan brings in expats from other countries that already work within the bank, particularly when subject matter experts are required for specific functions. “We do have people from abroad as well, and they bring a lot of the expertise that we need to be able to successfully perform the day-to-day responsibilities,” said Mendiberri.
The company is looking to the long term for its growth of the center, anticipating the challenges that lie ahead. “As it is still a work-in-progress, the biggest challenge for us is building the infrastructure that we need to support our projected growth,” said Mendiberri. “Recruiting is one piece of the equation, while real estate is the other. As we are doubling our size, it’s not a case of having sufficient real estate and resources tomorrow; it takes time to find somewhere to build the space for our employees, and presents another challenge. But so far we have been doing that successfully.”
“Obviously, cost is an important factor and Argentina is cheaper than the US, but talent and time zone alignment with the US are two more important drivers of the decision,” she continued. “Even though Buenos Aires wasn’t named officially a strategic hub until 2014, we have been rendering services to other countries in this region since 2006.”
Considering that the bank started providing regional and global services from Argentina ten years ago with a small team of three people, the development of this global support hub represents a massive step in the company’s Latin America footprint, and could easily lead to a stronger nearshore presence for the firm.