Culture and Talent

JPMorgan, Goldman and others are easing their dress codes in a bid for tech talent

  • Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase have relaxed dress code policies. Others, like Citi, have embraced them too, though less formally.
  • Dressing down is as much about attracting and retaining new talent as it is about blending two culturally different worlds, Wall Street and Silicon Valley
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JPMorgan, Goldman and others are easing their dress codes in a bid for tech talent

The mention of financial giants like JPMorgan or Goldman Sachs conjures up images of staid suits, ties and corner offices in ivory towers. But for the last two years they’ve been trying to look more like the tech companies they so often claim to be. Now, they’re taking the next step by relaxing their dress codes.

Goldman’s workforce is nearly 70 percent millennial, according to a LinkedIn post by its head of human capital management. Last month, the bank relaxed the dress code for its tech employees, telling them to “exercise judgment in determining when to adapt to business attire.” It’s probably safe to say that if they aren’t meeting with clients, they need not suit up. Jeans are allowed, according to one Goldman engineer. Some people wear hoodies.

“It’s somewhat of a symbolic gesture,” said the engineer, something the firm can do to “not be seen as another stuffy organization but more as one that emphasizes creativity” and to “make Goldman engineering more attractive to millennials.”

Goldman’s move came a year after the almost 150-year-old investment bank launched GS Bank — an Internet-based savings bank for the masses — and months after it launched Marcus, an online lending “startup within Goldman” — two new digital businesses that require a lot of tech expertise.

JPMorgan Chase opted a firmwide business casual dress policy last summer, noting in an internal memo that “it may not be possible to dress business casual at all times or in all areas.”

That was just a couple months after the largest U.S. lender by assets moved its coders, data engineers and digital executives (who were mostly new to the banking industry) to a separate facility on Manhattan’s West Side, where casual dress is the norm. Some even sport Chase digital team hoodies, according to one employee. JPM and Goldman wouldn’t comment for this story.

“They’re not client-facing people, so we wanted to relax [the dress code] because the people we want to recruit are coming from tech companies where they can be more relaxed and casual,” the Chase employee said.

JPM is now reportedly in talks to triple the size of its new digital headquarters, expecting to expand grow its 700-person digital team to as much as 2,500.

Banking giants arguably can offer more varied work than tech companies, said Bhushan Sethi, PwC’s people and organization financial services leader. Only a small percentage of the Silicon Valley workforce work for the iconic brands, whereas banks have a big need for expertise in advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and robotic process automation to help people to manage their money.

“The culture of the firm is really important for tech talent,” he said. “If they come in feeling empowered, they feel they can make a change.”

Startup and bank cultures also are coming face to face through mergers and partnerships. Last year JPMorgan launched one in its actual offices called In-Residence, where the startups work side by side with the bank. While some startups will be acquired by banks — as in BBVA’s purchase of Simple, Capital One’s purchase of Level Money and Silicon Valley Bank’s acquisition of Standard Treasury — others like Finicity will partner with them.

Cultural boundaries also are blurring as banks move into tech hubs like Austin and Cincinnati. Citi FinTech, for example, the unit dedicated to mobile-first offerings that always comes to work dressed down and celebrates its nontraditional banking culture, is expected to move to the Cornell campus soon, according to a Citi employee.

“It’s not always about attracting talent; it’s also about how you integrate talent from the technology firms you’ve acquired,” Sethi said.

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