Greater Phoenix’s large talent base and competitive labor costs make it the place for businesses to go to scale
Pam Higdon

Northern Trust’s search for strategic location

Just down the road from Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, it’s no wonder Northern Trust made the decision to expand at Tempe’s Discovery Business Park in 2015.

Each year Arizona State University (ASU) graduates more than 20,000 undergraduate, graduate and doctorate students, creating a large, qualified talent pool to draw from. Northern Trust’s strategic location at the research park also provides access to talent from the University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University and the Maricopa Community Colleges System.

“The three state universities all have tremendous established recruiting teams to tap into each university,” said Pam Higdon, Senior Vice President of Northern Trust’s Arizona Operational Center.

Choosing Greater Phoenix for Workforce

While Northern Trust has served clients in Arizona since 1974, the team realized the need to widen their client support coverage to allow for time zone differences, the projected growth in demand for services and the opportunity to widen their talent pools and increase geographic diversity.

Their expansion journey started off with a list of 25 to 30 possible sites, which was then narrowed to 10 after leveraging an outside firm to look at various components of each site, including labor force and quality of workforce. After the list was narrowed, the team then met with individual communities.

The Northern Trust team liked Tempe, and Arizona in general, because of the low operating costs, streamlined regulations and other incentives. Higdon said the quality of workforce was also a big deciding factor. “Mayor Mitchell provided us with such great detail and insight about Tempe,” she said. “We have found a place where there is a good source of talent, not only in Arizona, but coming in from nearby states as well.”

The Discovery Business Park was a perfect fit for Higdon and her team. “We’re in a fairly centralized location off of the 101,” she said. “It provides access to public transportation, as well as being green – employees use the bike trails that run alongside the campus. Our staff really appreciates the short commute time, most don’t want to travel more than 15 or 20 minutes to get to work each day.”

Talent Pipeline Fueled by a Robust Education Ecosystem

Over the next three to five years, the Arizona Operating Center is expected to grow to 1,000 full-time employees. Higdon said employees recruited from surrounding universities include entry-level positions, as well as complex staff, audit, IT and finance staff.

“Being close to a major university also brings in a high tech presence and IT presence, and we’ve been able to bring in a number of great candidates,” Higdon said.

In addition to the universities nearby, Northern Trust also recruits candidates from the Maricopa Community College system. One program Higdon cites is the Year Up program, a nationwide initiative to close the “opportunity divide” for low-income young adults by providing them with a six-month program to learn the skills employers are looking for, followed by a six-month internship with a partnering company. The Arizona sector of the program launched on the campus of Maricopa Community Colleges in January of 2015, and Northern Trust started working with the program almost immediately after the Tempe office opened.

“The Year Up program brings the opportunity for Northern Trust to coach and mentor students within the program as well as hire them as interns and full-time staff positions,” Higdon said. “There is a robust community college system and strong talent pool where staff can come in and work for us while they’re finishing their degrees.”

Since expanding to Tempe in January of last year, Northern Trust has truly become a valuable asset to the Greater Phoenix region by working to better the community they are a part of.

“We have an interest in bringing in veterans through programs like Hire Our Heroes and the Pat Tillman Foundation, which interviews, recruits and hires veterans,” Higdon said. “Part of the Northern Trust culture overall is to embed ourselves within the community and to help support programs which we believe support the people and communities which we live and work in.”

Photo credit: Stefanie Carson