In many Dallas-Fort Worth cities, finance and insurance companies are among the largest employers. Their jobs pay well, too.
Technology and upstarts are creating disruptions in the financial sector, resulting in cutbacks in some areas and slow job growth nationwide. But in Dallas-Fort Worth, finance and insurance jobs are booming — and the bounty spreads throughout the region.
Some firms in the sector are among the largest employers in local cities, including State Farm in Richardson, Citigroup in Irving, Capital One in Plano and Fidelity Investments in Westlake.
Together, those four workplaces accounted for just over 24,000 jobs last year, according to annual reports compiled by the cities.
In the 12 months ended in October, the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area added 9,300 jobs in finance and insurance, a gain of 4.1%. The increase was five times greater than the increase nationwide.
The local numbers are poised to grow more. Charles Schwab, one of the nation’s leading discount brokers, recently announced plans to move its corporate headquarters from San Francisco to Westlake, where it is building a new campus.
Last year, Schwab had 850 employees in Westlake, according to the city’s annual report. In April, a local executive said the number was up to 1,600 and would eventually rise to 6,000. That was before the headquarters news and the planned acquisition of TD Ameritrade, which are expected to raise the employee count even further.
How to explain the local attraction?
“We have a more plentiful pool of talent at a lower price — plus a lower cost of occupancy and operations,” said Bill Sproull, CEO of the Richardson Chamber of Commerce. “These companies need all of that to be more competitive over the long term.”
In finance and insurance, as in many industries, internet-based business models have become essential. And they rely on low costs and other efficiencies, along with access to talent. Last year, Capital One laid off 950 workers in Plano and cited intense competition in the mortgage business and the growth of digital tools, which allowed it to shut down a call center.
Despite those cuts, the region still added financial sector jobs last year, and the momentum has picked again in 2019.
National players stake out Dallas-Fort Worth
Many of the jobs pay good salaries. Almost 40,000 accountants and auditors in D-FW were earning an average of $82,000 last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Almost 17,000 people worked as securities sales agents and were paid $93,000 on average. Insurance claims clerks earned almost $43,000.
Perhaps the best proof point of D-FW’s appeal is the kind of companies expanding here. Many are national players catering to a national audience; they’re not coming here to merely serve the local or regional market, although that’s a strength, too, because of D-FW’s population growth.
“These companies could go anywhere, and they’re choosing to come here and grow here,” Sproull said, naming Charles Schwab, Capital One, Liberty Mutual, State Farm and Geico.
Housing prices, property taxes and wages in some fields have climbed significantly in the past decade, but North Texas remains affordable, especially compared with major metros on the coasts.
“Even if you have to compete up for some positions, it’s not as expensive as in other places,” he said.
What are the jobs?
In North Texas, the financial sector is oversized as a share of the workforce and spread out geographically. In October, finance and insurance accounted for 7.1% of private jobs in D-FW compared with 4.9% nationwide. That represents enough critical mass to serve as a magnet for others, said Laila Assanie, senior business economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
Consider how New York City became entrenched as the capital of finance and Silicon Valley as the center of technology.
“The larger the concentration, the more it can drive growth, and that’s really played to Dallas’ advantage,” Assanie said.
North Texas continues to attract a steady stream of talent from other states and countries, which helps fuel the jobs machine, she said.
According to the Dallas Regional Chamber, over 11,000 establishments operate in financial services here, employing almost 229,000 people.
A heat map in the chamber’s economic development guide shows the location of 59 employers in the financial industry cluster. They’re concentrated in downtown Dallas and to the north, along Central Expressway and the Dallas North Tollway. Many more firms are located to the west, along Highway 114 and through Irving’s Las Colinas and past Westlake. Downtown Fort Worth has three major companies on the map, too.
Arlington had more workers at both GM Financial and JPMorgan Chase — almost 5,000 total, according to the city’s 2018 annual report — than with the Texas Rangers.
Filling the talent pipeline
All this makes for a lot of diversity in potential locations. Comerica and Santander Consumer USA are in skyscrapers in downtown Dallas. State Farm has a large campus in Richardson, next to the CityLine DART station.
In Plano’s Legacy West, JPMorgan is already expanding with a 12-story tower, the tallest of four buildings on a nearly 50-acre campus. JPMorgan has about 5,750 workers in Plano today, a spokesman said, and expects that number to grow to 11,000 in two years.
Then there’s Schwab’s new headquarters, still under construction. People working in those buildings will have long views of the rolling landscape of the Circle T Ranch, dotted with lakes and large greenbelts.
“It’s absolutely unique for North Texas,” said Mike Berry, president of Hillwood, which added the ranch to its giant Alliance corridor project in 1993. “In this market, I don’t think you could create another corporate environment with the look and feel of this site.”
Editor’s note: Fidelity Investments said it had 5,300 employees in Westlake last year, nearly twice as many as originally listed in a chart above. The smaller number was taken from Westlake’s 2018 comprehensive annual financial report.