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"Citizen developers" are a thing at JPMorgan. Will they phase out real engineers?

JPMorgan wants to make its bankers and traders into engineers

Everyone's an engineer now

Think you need to be a coding savant just to compete with software engineers these days? JPMorgan has other ideas. 

While everyone rushes to learn languages like Python and Java, becoming hyper-proficient at coding is a lot less necessary than in the past, at least at JPMorgan. The bank is espousing the concept of "citizen developers," who deal with software but don't really know how to code much at all. 

The citizen developer trend is part of the low code revolution. Low code or no code systems allow non-coders to develop tools using graphical interfaces rather than coding languages. In a recent video, JPMorgan's chief product officer for commercial banking Anish Bhimani and head of strategy governance and execution for their chief technology office, John Napoli, discussed why low code is great, and why it isn't.

Low code systems “put the power into the hands of people who aren’t necessarily trained as software engineers,” says Napoli. They streamline the development process and makes it easier to "iterate on a regular basis.” They also mean that “different subject-matter experts" can "build their own enterprise solutions.”

Bankers and traders have long had their own coding workarounds, but they've been ad hoc and unregulated. Bhimani says low code provides “a platform with which they can do all the things they used to do offline in Excel or in one-off tools that had no controls.” Low code platforms are both “sanctioned and approved" and give citizen developers in the front office "the flexibility they need to do their jobs.”

In this way, so-called citizen developers can increase efficiency and real developers can do more interesting jobs. Napoli says too many of the jobs done by engineers are in the backlog and are "smaller or need fixing.” When citizen developers do this stuff, experienced developers can do more interesting things instead. 

There are some issues of course, primarily over security and speed of implementation. "Just because you sit in the front office and you’re a citizen developer doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do all the things that a traditional software engineer would do,” says Napoli. Inexperienced people can introduce human error. And in a huge bank like JPMorgan, "scaling a new approach to technology is not always the easiest thing in the world.” 

Nonetheless, the citizen developers are already making a difference. Napoli says there's been, “a 30% productivity improvement and a 70% straight through process of improvement” in the low code workflow space. By 2025, he says the prevailing opinion is that 70% of software engineering will be, "leveraging low code in some way.”

JPMorgan's initiative comes as Goldman Sachs and other banks are bringing their engineers closer to the business. The implication is that business people and engineers are blurring into one. In the future, everyone will be a bit of each, although some will be closer to either end of the spectrum.

Click here to create a profile on eFinancialCareers. Make yourself visible to recruiters and find a career where engineering expertise may or may not be necessary. 

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: alex.mcmurray@efinancialcareers.com in the first instance. 

Bear with us if you leave a comment at the bottom of this article: all our comments are moderated by human beings. Sometimes these humans might be asleep, or away from their desks, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. Eventually it will – unless it’s offensive or libelous (in which case it won’t.)

Photo by RODNAE Productions

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AUTHORAlex McMurray
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  • Ed
    Edward
    27 October 2022

    Imagine being one of the “CTO”s and not having a technological background

    No wonder banks like monzo and revolut run circles around legacy banks like these.

  • Gi
    GiusArg
    26 October 2022

    While everyone rushes to learn languages like Python and Java

    Java... I don't want the one who starts another language war here but, frankly, sometimes it seems that you guys just drop random words.

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