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TD is looking to bulk up on key skills in design, software development, machine learning, automation and digital marketing in 2022.Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

Toronto-Dominion Bank is planning a hiring spree to fill more than 2,000 technology roles this year, significantly ramping up recruitment of staff with skills in key areas that underpin the bank’s increasing use of cloud computing and automation.

The Toronto-based bank aims to hire more aggressively amid a fierce war for tech talent across a range of industries, which has intensified as the pandemic pushes more everyday activity online. By comparison, TD added more than 300 technology roles last year.

In 2022, TD is looking to bulk up on key skills in design, software development, machine learning, automation and digital marketing, and to add employees schooled in the popular method for managing tech projects known as Agile.

“We have transformations happening, we have innovation that we want to bring to our customers at a pace that is much faster than previous years,” Rizwan Khalfan, TD’s chief digital and payments officer, said in an interview. “There is a war for talent in the market. … We know we need more capacity and capability, and we’re going to go out and acquire that.”

But those are “hot skills” in a job market for tech talent that reaches far beyond banking, said Michael Rhodes, the bank’s head of Canadian personal banking who formerly led its innovation and technology groups. Banks are competing with tech giants, financial technology startups and an array of other large companies for the same set of skills as almost every industry races to respond to rapid changes brought about by technology.

Across the financial services industry, demand surged last year for specific types of engineers specializing in cloud computing and DevOps – a field that combines software development and information technology operations. The need for employees who have those skills was up as much as 400 per cent, according to Robert Vokes, managing director of financial services at consulting company Accenture Canada.

“It’s raising now a question of some pretty big skill gaps,” he said in an interview this week. “It’s also raising questions for every organization around retention. … How do I think about not only attracting them, but then retaining and developing them?”

At TD, the bank is in the midst of a multiyear effort to change its approach to technology from one that focused on products sold by separate business units to one with teams that reach across the bank, allowing TD to build new technologies once but deploy them repeatedly.

As an example, the bank needed just six weeks to roll out its virtual assistant to U.S. customers – a service that uses artificial intelligence technology supplied by an outside partner, Kasisto – to take strain off call centres when calls from customers surged during the COVID-19 pandemic. The assistant had already been deployed and used millions of times in Canada.

“We’ve got to move faster,” Mr. Khalfan said.

TD is also modernizing the way it accesses data by creating a central repository in the cloud that can feed the bank’s services and analytical tools, in partnership with Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and software company Databricks.

“The fintechs and the Big Techs are in a position to keep raising the bar,” Mr. Khalfan said. “But once you organize yourself on your end and identify this approach with the design talent, with the technology talent that you require, you are able to truly serve the needs of your customers.”

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