In September, BlackRock opened the doors of its new data and technology hub — in a former lift factory in Budapest. The world’s biggest fund manager has hired 400 staff for the office and plans to recruit a further 100 technology and customer service workers. The intense recruitment has nearly doubled BlackRock’s continental European headcount in just over a year.
Technology has become the biggest arms race in the global asset management industry as rivals try to gain an edge in trading. “The reason we chose Hungary and Budapest was really around the talent,” said Melanie Seymour, head of the new office. “The talent that BlackRock is recruiting globally is very much focused on technology, data science and languages.”
The New York-listed group, which manages $6.3trillion for clients worldwide, has been investing heavily in technology. Its San Francisco innovation hub has become increasingly influential within the business, with Mark McCombe, head of Americas, moving to the city last year.
The office has become the centre of BlackRock’s growing efforts in quantitative investment.
Ms Seymour was head of BlackRock’s defined contribution centre in Peterborough, UK, until it sold the business to Aegon in 2016. She said the new office would not be totally aligned with the San Francisco innovation centre but would work on global projects.
BlackRock is tapping into a central and eastern European workforce that is highly skilled and able to speak several European languages. The workers are also relatively cheap compared with those in North America and western Europe.
The office will develop technology for financial and business processes, handling client data and marketing. It will also pick up customer services, including providing a help desk for German-speaking clients across Europe.
Of the 400 staff recruited so far, 82 per cent are Hungarian, with the rest coming from 20 other countries. One in eight of the recruits is a Hungarian returning to the country from workplaces such as the UK, US, Germany and Japan.
BlackRock will occupy a third of the GTC White House, a converted lift factory with underground car parking and a roof that recycles rainwater. The historical structure is surrounded by and connected to a modern glass building. The Hungarian government said it would provide nearly $1m financial support for training. BlackRock has been undertaking philanthropic work in Budapest, including teaching women who are on maternity leave but do not work for the company how to write computer code.