UPDATE: June 18, 2020: JPMorgan Chase and PNC are among the latest banks to announce they’ll close early to observe Juneteenth, while Bank of America opted to keep its branches open and let its employees take a personal day Friday.
“Closing the branches enables many of our colleagues to join in the celebration and reflect on not only America’s achievements, but also its enduring effort to acknowledge its flaws and become a better nation,” JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said in a memo Wednesday, according to Bloomberg. “Now is the time for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of equality.”
The bank is closing its U.S. branches at 1 p.m. Friday to give front-line workers the opportunity to “reflect, learn and participate in peaceful events in their communities,” Dimon said. Nonbranch workers can opt to end their workdays early Friday, depending on their roles. The bank said it will pay hourly U.S. employees for a full day if they’re scheduled to work Friday. Hourly staff in core functions who must continue working past 1 p.m. will be paid for an extra four hours, the bank said.
Bank of America’s policy aligns more closely with that of Citi, which said Tuesday that employees are welcome to take the day off, but that the personal day would be deducted from paid time off.
“For U.S. teammates who would like to honor the day out of work, we reinforce the additional flexibility to take time away,” Bank of America said Wednesday in a memo to employees. Staff members can use up to five sick days as personal days before Dec. 31, an increase from two days, in addition to their vacation days or paid time off, according to the memo.
“Our teammates will be encouraged and empowered to learn more about the history and meaning of the day, connect with each other and honor the anniversary at home and at work,” CEO Brian Moynihan wrote in a message on the company’s intranet, according to Bloomberg.
Meanwhile, PNC and Comerica said Wednesday they will close all offices and branches at 2 p.m. Friday. Bank of the West said it would close its branches and operations at 1 p.m. BMO Harris Bank in Chicago said it will close its branches at noon, American Banker reported.
UPDATE: June 17, 2020: U.S. Bank and Capital One on Tuesday joined the growing list of banks closing early Friday to observe Juneteenth.
“The events of the past few weeks have changed the conversation and added a sense of urgency that has motivated more people across the globe to act to address social injustice,” U.S. Bank CEO Andy Cecere said in a statement Tuesday. “That begins with acknowledging our rich and diverse history.”
The bank, based in Minneapolis, is closing its branches and offices at 1 p.m. Friday. Its home city is the site of the May 25 killing of George Floyd, which incited a swell of protests and awareness surrounding racial injustice.
Meanwhile, Capital One announced Tuesday via Twitter that it would close its offices and branches at 2 p.m. Friday in observance of the day.
“These have been stressful times, and overwhelming for many,” Meghan Welch, the bank’s chief diversity, inclusion and belonging officer, wrote in a memo to employees, according to Bloomberg. “This is perhaps most true for our Black associates. It is our hope that honoring Juneteenth creates an opportunity for much needed rest, reflection, celebration and education.”
- Fifth Third and Truist are among U.S. banks that have pledged to give employees time off Friday for Juneteenth, which commemorates the belated announcement in Texas of the abolition of slavery. The 1865 announcement came June 19, more than two months after the Civil War ended and four-and-a-half months after Congress passed the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery.
- Citi employees are welcome to take Friday off, but the personal day would be deducted from their paid time off, CEO Michael Corbat said in an internal memo, according to Bloomberg.
- The banks join Santander and payment network Mastercard in commemorating the day. The Spanish bank's U.S. unit said Monday it would close its offices and branches at noon Friday. Mastercard said last week it would give employees the day off and encouraged them in a memo to volunteer, donate and care for their mental health.
The moves come as protests over Floyd's death have brought renewed focus on racial equality in the U.S. Financial institutions such as Bank of America, U.S. Bank and PayPal pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in recent weeks toward equality efforts.
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third will close its offices at 2 p.m. Friday and pay all employees for a full day.
"As we consider the tremendous significance of this day and what it represents, it also reminds us of how far we still must go to have equality and inclusion for all," Greg Carmichael, chairman, president and CEO of Fifth Third, said Monday in a press release. "As we observe Juneteenth, each of us should pause, reflect, and contemplate its significance and what it meant 155 years ago, what it means today, and how we might take action to make tomorrow better for everyone."
The bank is also scheduled Friday to hold the first meeting of its diversity leadership council.
"We cannot fix 400 years of injustice with one day," Stephanie Smith, chief inclusion and diversity officer at Fifth Third, said, according to American Banker. "But we can start taking steps to acknowledge the fact that there is racial inequality and inequity in organizations, corporations and communities and we want to play our part in saying that we're willing to recognize difficult moments."
Truist is shuttering its offices at 2 p.m. Friday in observance of the day, a spokeswoman said.
Wells Fargo "will be honoring and commemorating Juneteenth through various activities focused on learning about the holiday and engaging in meaningful dialogue," a spokeswoman said. The bank is also holding virtual events this week organized by its Black/African American Connection Team Member Network, as well as other discussions to be hosted by senior leaders.
Corbat asked Citi staff members who plan to work Friday to take time for “reaching out to colleagues to provide support, researching organizations you are considering donating to as part of our colleague fundraising efforts or learning more about some of the historical events that contributed to the inequality we continue to see today.”
More important than a single day, however, is a commitment to long-lasting change, said Malia Lazu, Boston-based Berkshire Bank's chief experience and culture officer.
"The question is, once this dies down, are we going to put this away until the next video ... or does this lead to different hiring processes?" Lazu told American Banker. "Does this lead to the underbanked being served? Does this lead to more homeownership? Does this lead to more people of color in banking? Giving everyone a holiday because we freed the slaves is great, but recognizing what slavery has done to the wealth of African Americans and trying to do something about that is what’s going to have real impact."
Citi, for its part, held a companywide discussion last Friday to reinforce its commitments to change, including laying out ways to increase Black representation in the company. The bank’s CFO, Mark Mason, is one of Wall Street’s most senior Black executives.
Citi is creating a task force to identify how its core businesses address racial inequality.
“While a focus on diversity and inclusion isn’t new to Citi, this discussion was different than those we’ve had in the past — more candid, direct and heartfelt, and filled with a sense of urgency to use this moment we’re in to create lasting change,” Corbat said in the memo.