Many cities on the West Coast of the United States burgeoned into innovation centers during the dot-com bubble. Tech hubs like California’s Silicon Valley and Washington’s Greater Seattle region are home to some of the biggest tech companies in the world and offer a range of amenities to support talent attraction.
But as the world shifted to accommodate social distancing in 2020, workers are trading their traditional workspaces for home offices, leading many businesses to reconsider their operational costs.
Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, emerging tech and financial tech hubs are gaining favor among businesses and workers alike, eager to find new economic opportunities and better work-life balance. While cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston and Miami reported net migration losses in 2020, Florida’s largest city, Jacksonville, reported a 9 percent increase in workers during the pandemic, the second highest increase in the country.
Today, the Jacksonville region boasts more than 62,000 working professionals in the financial services industry. The combination of a rapidly increasing skilled talent pool with access to world-class universities and colleges, affordable and available real estate and supportive regulatory bodies solidifies Jacksonville’s status as an emerging fintech city to watch closely.
Doing Business in Jacksonville
The state of Florida has long attracted a variety of corporate businesses and entrepreneurs with its low tax structure and streamlined regulatory environment. The Jacksonville region distinguishes itself from competitors by pairing its strong employment market with healthy, sustainable growth in its commercial and residential real estate sectors – a combination that has effectively lured several fintech giants to the region recently including SoFi, SS&C Technologies and SmartStream Technologies.
A haven for tech talent, Jacksonville has the third largest monthly tech job growth rate in the nation, outranking notable tech cities such as Los Angeles, Houston and Miami. Ideally located in the Southeastern United States with access to a deep-water port and continuous flow of specialized workers, Jacksonville is well positioned for accelerated growth, expansion and investment.
Fintech in the Jacksonville Region
From small startups to multinational businesses, fintech companies of all sizes are relocating or expanding to the Jacksonville region. When Bay Area-based premium financial services platform SoFi began plans for a new operations center, their search started and ended in Jacksonville. “Jacksonville, from the start of our exploration, has been a clear front-runner for talent, accessibility and offering an affordable cost of living,” said SoFi CEO Anthony Noto to The Florida-Times Union.
Connecticut-based multinational fintech company, SS&C Technologies, also elected to expand its presence in the Southeast by adding nearly 200 jobs to their existing Jacksonville workforce along with announcing a $1.7 million investment in capital expenditures in 2019. And just this year, London-based SmartStream Technologies opened its third U.S. location in Jacksonville.
“Dedicated to the development and support of our services, we wanted a site that was near customers, offered a pool of available talent and was located in an area that was conducive to doing business,” said Haytham Kaddoura, CEO of SmartStream.
Jacksonville also serves as the primary location and headquarters for several fintech businesses, including Black Knight, OnPay Solutions, Greenshades, Finxact and FIS, the largest fintech company by revenue in the world. FIS has been in Jacksonville for more than 15 years and employs more than 55,000 employees worldwide, 1,500 of which are in the company’s downtown Jacksonville headquarters.
In 2019, FIS committed to create another 500 jobs and a brand new 12-story riverfront headquarters, currently under construction.
“Jacksonville has been a true partner in our ability to attract a world-class workforce and achieve our growth goals,” said Gary Norcross, FIS chairman, president and CEO. “We operate in more than 100 countries around the world to deliver leading-edge financial technology innovations and it all starts right here in Jacksonville.”
Sustaining the Fintech Workforce
Every year, more than 28,000 students graduate throughout the state of Florida with STEM degrees, granting Jacksonville employers direct access to a wealth of talent. Jacksonville’s strategic location puts businesses within reach of Florida’s most prestigious colleges and universities, helping to support a steady flow of talent. Notably, the Northeast Florida Fintech Initiative was established in 2020 to develop technical certificate programs to supply the burgeoning fintech industry.
The partnership between St. Johns River State College and Florida State College at Jacksonville creates a sustainable fintech pipeline by collaborating with banks, investment firms, and other financial businesses to create curriculum, paid internships, scholarships, and job placements to promote fintech success and growth in Jacksonville.
Companies around the world are recognizing Jacksonville’s potential and abundance of fintech resources throughout the region. From supplying and establishing a talented workforce to providing lenient regional regulations to promote innovative business practices, the city proves itself not only as a reputable fintech powerhouse in the United States, but as a global competitor.
Aundra Wallace has served as President of JAXUSA Partnership, the regional economic development arm of the JAX Chamber, since 2018 and is a recognized expert in urban, community, and housing development. Throughout his career, Aundra has created and/or retained 9,500 direct jobs and managed more than $650 million in equity, grants, loans and tax-exempt bonding capacity.