Is Phoenix becoming Wall Street West?

Business News | 30 Apr |

More financial services and financial technology workers were hired in the Valley than anywhere else in the U.S. in 2017. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says more than 127,000 Phoenix metro workers were hired by financial and insurance services. That’s more than Dallas, the leading metro for employment in the sector, and more than Wall Street.

In fact, Phoenix area hiring is on a pace by 2020 to claim more financial service workers in the Valley than on Wall Street.

“These are well-paying jobs,” said Christine Mackay, director of Phoenix Community and Economic Development. “The average wage for financial service and financial technology workers is over $61,000 annually.”

It’s the workforce drawing companies to Phoenix. Where the metro was once known for starter call center jobs, the experience and ecosystem evolved into a full financial services center that stretches across the entire Valley. Employment concentrations adjoin the Price Corridor in Chandler, Loops 101 and 202 in Tempe, north Phoenix, Downtown and Sky Harbor submarkets in Phoenix, and Loop 101 in north Scottsdale.

The role of financial and insurance services companies makes the sector a heavy technology industry. Charles Schwab, USAA and Northern Trust have all made tech divisions moves into the Valley for developer enterprise systems, mobile applications and technology innovation.

“Phoenix was our go-to market,” said Brian Parks, USAA executive vice president for technology and workforce strategy. “We have an amazing facility to attract top level talent in the Valley and from the nation and West Coast.”

USAA is hiring more than 1,000 financial technology workers at its Deer Valley regional headquarters. The addition brings the company’s Phoenix workforce to over 5,500, making it the 25th-largest employer in the Phoenix area.

Farmer’s Insurance is hiring nearly 500, Paychex is looking to add over 300 workers, and other major financial and insurance employers are adding staff in the area. One out of five financial service workers in the Valley commute to north Phoenix.

Deer Valley in north Phoenix is the largest concentration of financial services workers in Arizona. In a roughly three-mile radius surrounding the interchange of Interstate 17 and Loop 101, more than 23,000 hold financial services and financial technology jobs. There are more than 400 companies in this sector located in north Phoenix. Almost 19,000 of those workers are employed by the 14 largest companies, according to the Maricopa Association of Governments.

“Companies recognize that workforce quality and diversity is the primary reason for selecting a location. BBC News, Fortune magazine and other global news media have reported that Phoenix is a top city for financial service and financial technology companies,” said Phoenix Vice-Mayor Thelda Williams. “With one of the largest workforce concentrations in Arizona, the north Phoenix area connects employers with literally tens of thousands of job candidates within short commutes of office campuses in what’s becoming known as ‘Wall Street West.’”

Filling those roles comes from existing workforce in the metro area, but companies are also using the Phoenix quality of life and low housing cost as a draw. It seems to be working.

“Phoenix is a place that captures the fascination of our workforce. That’s one reason we’re excited about the expansion. The workforce is positive about expanding in Phoenix,” said David Travers, chief operations officer, Farmers Insurance Exchange, citing one of the reasons the company picked Phoenix for its new regional facility.

Last year, Maricopa County has added more population numbers than any other U.S. county for the second year in a row, according to U.S. Census estimates. The demographic data point to in-migration being highest in the prime 25 to 44-year-old age group.

“Phoenix is a smart city, and its appealing to talent in California, Washington and Oregon,” Parks said.

The emphasis has been noted globally. BBC News, in a story entitled “Goodbye New York, Hello Arizona,” projected that by 2020 Phoenix would pass Wall Street in the number of financial services workers. At that point, Phoenix would be second to Dallas, Texas, in the number of financial services workers.

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