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AI talent war on Wall Street hits Goldman Sachs hardest

For months, banks have been jockeying to lure the best AI talent to their ranks — and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has been on the losing end of that fight. 

The Wall Street giant has seen a net outflow of 60 people to rivals such as Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc. in the 12 months through September, the most of any of its biggest rivals, according to data compiled by the consultancy Evident. Bank of America, which is down 55 staffers, suffered the second-biggest exodus, while Wells Fargo & Co. had the biggest net increase with 130 people. 

“It’s not just about hiring people, but nurturing and retaining them,” Alexandra Mousavizadeh, Evident’s chief executive officer, said in an interview. “They have a lot of other places to go.”

While the departures represent a small amount of the thousands of AI staff employed at banks, the data provides a window into just how fiercely competitive the landscape for AI talent has become. Employees with data, analytics, and artificial intelligence roles can be among the highest paid at any company. 

Median compensation, which includes any annualized equity grants, for employees in such roles in the U.S. was $901,000 last year, while staffers in Europe with such experience took home $676,000, according to a report by the recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles. 

For its analysis, Evident examined roles in AI development, model risk, data engineering and software development. The data don’t capture banks’ hiring of AI talent from universities and consultancies. 

Take Goldman Sachs, which has lost 106 staffers to rivals: That’s just a small fraction of the nearly 46,000 employees the bank has globally. To be sure, the bank has been hiring and making investments as it seeks to attract top AI talent. Earlier this year, for example, Bing Xiang joined Goldman from Inc. as a managing director and head of AI research within engineering at the bank. 

Representatives for Goldman Sachs and the other banks declined to comment.

‘AI is here to stay’

The world’s biggest banks have slowly begun experimenting more with artificial intelligence in recent months, spurred by the promise that it will help them boost staffers’ productivity and cut costs. At Citigroup, for instance, the firm is planning to equip its 40,000 coders with the ability to experiment with different AI technologies by the end of the first quarter. 

Citigroup has added 189 staffers focused on AI in recent months, but it’s also lost 196 employees to rivals in that time, Evident’s data showed. 

“If you’re a bank and don’t have an AI strategy, then you don’t have a strategy,” Mike Mayo, an analyst at Wells Fargo, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “AI is here to stay.”

JPMorgan Chase & Co. has thousands of open roles tied to artificial intelligence and Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon has said he believes the technology will allow employers to shrink the work week to just 3.5 days. The firm this year kept its top spot in the Evident AI Index, which ranks banks on their maturity in artificial intelligence. 

JPMorgan has lost just 224 AI-focused staffers in recent months, but it added 325 over the same period, giving it one of the biggest net increases in talent among peers, Evident’s data found. 

“We are proud that our AI talent, insights and solutions were once again recognized,” Teresa Heitsenrether, JPMorgan’s chief data and analytics officer, said in a statement this month. “We are committed to continuing to invest in these capabilities.”

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