How Jacksonville became a “mecca for the financial services industry”

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November 1, 2019

(Courtesy: Jacksonville Business Journal)

Jacksonville is becoming a “mecca for the financial services industry,” according to a panel of Jacksonville financial services companies that addressed the Florida Enterprise Board of Directors in August.

Local leaders from four industry giants with a Jacksonville presence – SS&C Technologies Inc., Fidelity Investments, Macquarie Group and SoFi Lending Corp. – discussed what brought them to the First Coast, why they’re expanding here and what will keep them here long-term.

The panel spoke after Gov. Ron DeSantis pledged to do more to support financial services providers and financial technology companies, including through legislation and workforce development programs.

SS&C Technologies (Nasdaq: SSNC) owns Black Diamond, a fintech company founded in Jacksonville, and also houses a number of other divisions in its Jacksonville office. Since entering the area in 2011, SS&C has grown its presence to 550 employees, Senior Vice President Steve Leivent said. The division he oversees in Jacksonville is SS&C’s largest in North America, he noted.

SS&C will be adding 198 jobs with an average wage of $69,000 by the end of 2021 and will spend $1.75 million in capital improvements. It is receiving $990,000 in state and city incentives to do so.

SoFi is opening its first location in Jacksonville, a 300-employee operations center, this year. It, too, received an incentive package, which will give it up to $1.5 million. The company chose Jacksonville after looking at other possible locations throughout the Southeast.

“Jacksonville very quickly rose to the top of the list,” said Senior Vice President of Operations Micah Heavener. “From the talent you have here, the access to higher education, and obviously the cost of living here is very beneficial.”

Fidelity Investments has operated in Jacksonville since 2006 with an investor center in the Town Center, and has been growing at an “unprecedented pace” in recent years, Jacksonville Regional Leader Stacy Banner told the board.

“What that means, specifically in Jacksonville, is a lot of growth,” said Banner. “We hired almost 200 new associates last year. We hired about 230 through Q3 of this year, and Jacksonville, out of all of our regional centers, has been tasked to double the workforce because of the workforce and talent specifically in Jacksonville.”

Australia-based Macquarie Group chose to open an office to Jacksonville in 2016 after a global search for a new location. It started with 120 employees here, but now employs 270 and is hiring more, according to Anthony Glenn, head of Macquarie’s Jacksonville office. The company received a $1.8 million incentives package when it first moved to Jacksonville.

Other Jacksonville notables, like Fidelity National Information Services Inc. (NYSE: FIS), Fidelity National Financial Inc. (NYSE: FNF) and Black Knight Inc. (NYSE: BKI), were not represented on the panel, though FIS fits precisely the description of a company receiving incentives under the code-name Project Sharp.

That incentive package offers up $30 million for a company to build a $145 million riverfront headquarters, keep more than 1,200 jobs in Jacksonville and create up to 500 new jobs at an average annual salary of $85,000.

Part of what has kept financial companies growing in Jacksonville, Banner said, is Jacksonville’s workforce. She noted that the city’s median age is 38.

“The talent pool here is growing, particularly in technology,” said Banner, “and we know that workforce development is a top priority for the government, with the governor, which is really helpful for us.”

Panelists also lauded business-friendly tax and regulatory environments, the city’s low cost of living and Jacksonville’s quality of life.

Prior to the panel, DeSantis spoke about doing more to support financial services companies and fintechs.

“Look at what’s happened in Jacksonville just in the past 10 years with with more jobs and opportunities here,” said DeSantis. “I think we want to continue that. We’re going to make a push for financial technology.”

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