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Alphabet (Google) pays its AI professionals very handsomely at DeepMind. Can banks compete?

This is how much Google pays people at DeepMind in London

As banks dangle their feet in the murky waters of machine learning and spend big money recruiting artificial intelligence professionals for what have so far been uncertain returns, they may want to spare a thought for Google. The tech company has just published 2018 results for DeepMind Technologies Limited, the British-based artificial intelligence company it bought in 2014. The results show just how costly hiring artificial intelligence expertise can be.

For the year ending in December 2018, DeepMind's UK wage bill (including pensions and travel costs) amounted to £400m, up from £200m in 2017 and £105m the year before that. Pay is basically doubling every year. And it's largely thanks to this that the company made an operating loss of £470m last year. Painful.

DeepMind doesn't say how many people it employs, but its deepening costs appear to come after a period of recruitment. In late 2017, co-founder and CEO Demis Hassabis said DeepMind had doubled its headcount to 700 over the previous 12 months. Today, LinkedIn says DeepMind employs 838 people, suggesting Hassabis has been doing some hiring.

Either way, the implication is that Deepmind pays somewhere around £478k ($581k) per head (including pensions and individual travel). That's pretty generous.

Alphabet's generosity is all the more impressive given that DeepMind's revenues are diminutive. Last year, the company earned £102m (admittedly up from £54m) a year earlier.  

The lack of revenues and the high cost of hires isn't dissuading DeepMind from expanding further in the UK: the company currently has around 55 vacancies in London. If banks - which are also after deep learning talent - want to compete, they may need to raise their game.

A DeepMind spokeswoman said:  "Our DeepMind for Google team continues to make great strides bringing our expertise and knowledge to real-world challenges at Google scale, nearly doubling revenues in the past year. We will continue to invest in fundamental research and our world-class, interdisciplinary team, and look forward to the breakthroughs that lie ahead.”

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Photo: Getty

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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