Toronto-Dominion Bank is opening a new office in Tel Aviv to tap Israel’s cybersecurity talent as companies of all stripes race to fortify their defences amid mounting threats.
Jeff Henderson, TD’s chief information officer, says the bank plans to invest between $3 million to $5 million in its Tel Aviv office annually and aims to hire as many as 12 staff within the next year.
Tel Aviv has a deep pool of cybersecurity talent coming from local universities as well as the military, he added.
“The demand for cybersecurity talent is at an all time high, by everybody, and the supply in North America is limited. So it requires us to be more creative. … This is good evidence that we’re willing to go outside of our borders, outside of our market, and to open an office in order to get that talent,” he said.
The cybersecurity office in Tel Aviv, which TD says is a first for a Canadian bank, comes less than a month after credit data company Equifax announced that it suffered a massive cyberattack this past summer that compromised the personal information of roughly 143 million U.S. consumers and “limited” Canadian and U.K. consumers.
On Monday, Equifax revised the number of consumers potentially impacted in the breach _ bumping up the total in the U.S. to 145.5 million and reducing the number in Canada from an estimated 100,000 to 8,000.
For these Canadian consumers, Equifax says the information that may have been accessed includes name, address, social insurance number and, in “limited cases” credit card numbers.
And as banks increasingly interact with their customers in the digital realm either online or via mobile devices rather than in physical branches, the need for strong cybersecurity becomes more pressing.
“As we’re building a more digital bank, and as we’re delivering more connected and personalized experience… it introduces a premium on making sure that we’re being very careful and we are managing our risk,” said Henderson.
TD has been ramping up its direct investment in cybersecurity by 30 to 35 per cent, compounded annually, each year, said Henderson, a trend he expects to continue or increase. In the last fiscal year, he estimates TD made a direct investment in cybersecurity of $150 million to $200 million.
Other cities in the U.S. and Canada were also potential sites for this cybersecurity office, Henderson said.
“This isn’t meant to be the only path,” he said. “This is a space around the world where demand is far outstripping supply. And it’s I think unreasonable to say we will get the best and brightest just by being centred in Toronto, or just by drawing upon the markets we have business in.”
TD has already established a legal entity and has one person on the ground, said Henderson, adding the bank aims to start hiring in the next two to three weeks.
“You can’t build necessarily the perfect impenetrable defence. Nobody can. But its important that your ear is to the ground, so to speak, and know what’s going on from a threat perspective. Being in Israel will give us an extra avenue.”
Meanwhile, TD is spending on other technology initiatives as well.
TD Bank Group is taking $3.25 million from its fin tech investment pool to provide patent application funding and expertise to startups.
The bank is also bringing in artificial-intelligence powered chatbots into its mobile app. It says it has signed an agreement with Kasisto to use its KAI Banking platform, which will allow TD mobile app users to make queries about their accounts or transaction history via text chat.