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JPMorgan CIO Lori Beer on a "complete rethink" and a mammoth shift to the cloud

250,000 employees, 35,000 developers, 6,000 applications, 450 petabytes of data...

With 250,000 employees, 35,000 developers, 6,000 applications and 450 petabytes of data, JPMorgan CIO Lori Beer's "true modernisation effort"at the bank-- including a colossal migration of applications to the cloud -- would put a small nation state to shame, such is its scale.

"We've been reinventing the financial services industry for decades", Beer noted in a keynote at AWS's Re:Invent conference that spelled out the shift "But it's different today. The pace of change has accelerated. Innovation [is] more rapid, and cloud platforms are disrupting business models daily. So we decided to completely rethink our environment.

We're in the midst of a truly one-of-a-kind transformation- JPMorgan Chase Global CIO Lori Beer

As she told an audience at the online event (normally one of the industry's biggest and an eagerly awaited jamboree in the conference calendar): "We're in the midst of a truly one-of-a-kind transformation, leveraging modern engineering practices like refactoring our applications to be cloud-native, leveraging more advanced AI and analytics than we ever have before... Transforming yourself takes a lot of work, but we are creating paved ways for developers and accelerating adoption."

JP Morgan CIO Lori Beer on the banks cloud migration.
JP Morgan CIO Lori Beer speaks at Re:Invent 2020 on the bank's cloud migration. Credit, AWS

While the scale of the effort may be eye-popping, so is that of the bank: the multinational has some $28 trillion in assets under custody and processes circa $6 trillion of payments daily. It has a modernisation budget to match the ambition: in 2019 JPMorgan Chase spent $9.8 billion on "technology, communications and equipment", earnings reports reveal. (The bank serves 54 million global customers with investment banking, commercial banking, financial transaction processing and asset management.)

"Our developer community is now innovating at scale using AWS, and we continue to migrate critical workloads that can take advantage of the unique capabilities of the platform", CIO Beer added, saying that early efforts involved hackathons that put together AWS and JP Morgan Chase engineers to decompose applications and migrate workloads.

"This process helped us uncover problems, gain institutional knowledge, and enhance our collaboration," she explained. "We then developed repeatable blueprints, helping developers architect modern applications in safe, repeatable environments using the depth of AWS services."

Some of JPMorgan Chase's pioneering AI research team. Credit: JPMorgan Chase

Among the major projects for JPMorgan Chase in recent years has been building the company's "firm-wide" AI platform OmniAI.

This is powered in large part by Amazon SageMaker (a machine learning service that lets developers create, train and deploy ML models in the cloud.)

The bank is using OmniAI to incorporate natural language processing into a range of tools.

Outcomes include "making client interactions more personalised; testing advanced machine learning models to have a more comprehensive view of risk; and performing real-time coaching and recommendations for call center agents so they can better serve customers", Beer noted.

That project was built and continues to be supported by Apoorv Saxena, JPMorgan's firmwide Global Head of AI Technology (Google’s former head of product management for cloud AI verticals, who was poached in 2018).

On the Artificial Intelligence front, JPMorgan Chase also hired Professor Manuela Veloso as firmwide Head of AI Research in 2018 and has built a large team around her. The Carnegie Mellon professor leads research for the bank on data mining and cryptography, machine learning, explainability, and human-AI interaction. Her team also partners with applied data analytics teams across the firm as well as with a range of leading academic institutions globally.

(A snapshot of what the bank's AI-focussed research team are working on can be found here...)

A corporation – essentially any institution – is a living, breathing organism made up of people, technology, institutional knowledge and relationships and is generally organized around mission and purpose. Entering into a crisis is not the time to figure out what you want to be. You must already be... prepared to rapidly mobilize your resources, take your losses and survive another day for the good of all your stakeholders. JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon

The bank has been using cloud for some years. In 2018 its commercial banking wing launched a new client management system that ran firmwide data assets through cloud data analytics tools to provide live dashboards with real-time client information "alerting our team on service needs, product usage and the overall health of their client portfolio", as Commercial Banking CEO Douglas Petno noted in a 2019 annual report.