Credit Suisse’s blockbuster announcement that it plans to hire an additional 1,200 workers over the next several years and invest $70.5 million in a new building on its RTP campus almost didn’t happen.
The Swiss banking giant’s vice chairman, Wilson Ervin, told a group of business executives and local officials crowded under a canopy outside the company’s RTP offices Tuesday that the company put its expansion plans on hold for a time because the controversial HB2 wasn’t “consistent with our core values.”
Ervin said in an interview afterward that the company, which today has about 1,500 employees in the Triangle, made it clear to government officials that it wouldn’t expand here while HB2 was on the books. But, at the same time, Credit Suisse was willing to wait in hopes that the law would be stricken – as it was in March – because it ranked the Triangle so highly.
“While we realize the recent repeal of HB2 contains certain compromises,” Ervin stated in his prepared remarks, “it is an important first step that re-establishes the minimum conditions for us to expand our presence in the state.”
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The company subsequently issued a statement that cautioned that its expansion plans aren’t etched in stone.
“We expect continued progress by the government and will adjust our plans if we see any adverse policy changes that are inconsistent with our core values,” the statement noted.
HB2 prohibited local governments from enacting anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people and required people in government facilities to use bathrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates. The law that replaced it has drawn criticism because it includes a nearly four-year moratorium that prevents cities and counties from adopting anti-discrimination protection for LGBT people.
Brooks Raiford, president and CEO of the N.C. Technology Association, said Credit Suisse’s plans cement the Triangle’s status as a “growth hub for firms that aren’t based here.”
He also said that Credit Suisse’s ambitious plans make “a strong statement” that the corporate sector’s concerns about HB2 have been addressed to the point that companies are willing to move forward with expansion projects in North Carolina.
The law that replaced HB2 also figured into Trilliant Networks’ decision last month to move its global headquarters from Silicon Valley to Cary. The communications technology company plans to create 130 jobs here over the next five years.
Gov. Roy Cooper, who made the announcement of Credit Suisse’s expansion at the event, hailed it as one of the 10 largest job announcements in North Carolina in the past decade.
The new jobs created by Credit Suisse will pay an average annual salary of more than $100,000. The company will receive $40.2 million in state incentives if it meets its hiring and investment targets.
Dan Seabolt, a Credit Suisse managing director, said the Triangle will be the primary support hub for the company’s U.S. business.
“We’re going to build on our existing core capabilities across operations, finance and technology,” he said. “We’re going to increase areas of focus in risk management, compliance, audit and other important areas. So it’s going to be a full-service operation.”
Seabolt said that about 40 percent of the company’s local workforce are information technology specialists and that “technology will continue to be front and center for us going forward.” That includes expanding into “data and analytics, cyber security, machine learning and other important areas.”
Jim Captain, site executive for Credit Suisse, said the company plans to buy property next to its current RTP site from the Research Triangle Foundation, which manages the business park, for its new building.
Captain said that the plans for the new structure are still in development but that it’s likely it will be similar to its four-story, 205,000-square-feet building.
Credit Suisse established a presence in the Triangle in 2005, making it the first major financial services firm with headquarters elsewhere to become a major local employer. It blazed a trail that Deutsche Bank, Fidelity Investments and MetLife followed.
Ervin said that for a time in the early 1960s his father worked for a Triangle company that made vacuum tube capacitors, “which was considered very high-tech back in the day.”
“My earliest memories are of a sandbox about 20 miles thataway,” he said.