UPDATE: March 20, 2020: JPMorgan Chase is offering a one-time, $1,000 bonus to tellers and other “front line employees” to soften the impact of working through the coronavirus outbreak, the bank said Friday in a memo, according to CNBC.
The bonus, which applies to branch employees and those who earn less than $60,000 a year who must continue working at company buildings, will be paid in $500 installments in April and May. In certain countries, payments won’t exceed “10% of salary/regular pay or fixed pay,” the bank added.
The company also is planning to give all its workers an extra five paid days off, according to the memo.
In the memo, JPMorgan cited child care and transportation among the challenges on-site workers face. But the bonus may well serve as a morale boost for workers who risk exposure to the virus by being required to work in public.
- Beginning Thursday, JPMorgan Chase is temporarily shuttering 20% of its U.S. branches — about 1,000 in total — to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, the bank announced Wednesday in a memo to employees. Additionally, open branches will see shorter work hours.
- The closures are distributed across the country and not necessarily clustered in areas with a high coronavirus caseload or risk, bank spokeswoman Trish Wexler said, according to Bloomberg. Areas with a closed branch most likely have another JPMorgan location within walking distance, Wexler said.
- The bank is letting several sets of bank employees work from home, including small-business bankers and financial or home-lending advisers. JPMorgan also is giving all of its employees two additional paid days off, and will pay its branch employees for their regularly scheduled hours even if work hours are reduced or the branch where they work is closed.
The temporary closures are the most widespread and among the first for big U.S. banks amid the global pandemic. Capital One on Monday said it would temporarily close 120 branches, including all of its cafe locations. More than half of the affected branches are in the New York City area.
JPMorgan has prioritized keeping open the branches that have drive-through windows or partition glass between tellers and customers, the bank said.
In its memo to staff, the bank said the closures are meant to address the need to keep staff away from risk while also serving its customers.
"Every day I’m asking what more I can do — as a mother, as a daughter and as a CEO," Thasunda Brown Duckett, head of JPMorgan’s retail bank, said Wednesday in the memo, according to CNBC. "You are my tribe and your health and safety is as important to me. I am balancing that with the fact that we are essential to the communities we serve, and we need to be there to help."
In addition to extra paid time off, JPMorgan is offering several perks to employees who still need to work on-site. Private client, relationship and business bankers will get a one-time financial incentive for March, April and May, Reuters reported. The bank also relaxed its dress code, allowing staff to work in T-shirts and sneakers. And it’s offering free meals to community and consumer banking division employees working in offices with a cafeteria, as well as free lunch on Thursdays for branch employees.
By the same token, Wexler, in an emailed statement to Bloomberg, emphasized the continuity of the bank’s operations. "Chase is open for business in every one of our markets, with bankers in our branches ready to help customers across our entire footprint," she said. "Our temporarily smaller footprint will allow us to provide appropriate coverage in every market we serve."
Employees working at JPMorgan’s corporate offices were asked March 13 to start working from home this week, but that offer didn’t apply to branch workers. The bank’s operating committee said in a memo Sunday night that it was "actively reviewing" how it could best support those workers who could not work from home, the Financial Times reported.
Other large U.S. banks are evaluating the risks and rewards of branch banking in the coronavirus age. Bank of America is continuing normal branch operations for now, a spokesman told the Financial Times, as is Citigroup. The "vast majority" of Wells Fargo branches are open, a company spokeswoman said. "We recognize the need to keep employees and customers in our branches as safe as possible, so we are implementing an enhanced cleaning program in all properties, installing hand sanitizer stations in our branches and encouraging social distancing," she told the publication.
JPMorgan revealed another measure of support Wednesday in the fight against COVID-19: It committed $50 million to funds and community groups providing food, support and medical supplies for people affected by the coronavirus, Reuters reported. About $15 million will go to groups coping with the disease’s impact on people, and $35 million will address “medium-to-long term challenges communities are likely to face as the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold,” according to the wire service.