In his latest annual letter to shareholders, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon offered thoughts on how the US economy will boom after the pandemic thanks to excess savings, huge deficit spending, a new potential infrastructure bill, and the success of Covid-19 vaccinations. He also shared some thoughts on remote work.
The pandemic accelerated changes to the ways in which we work and that momentum will continue, he wrote. While many JPMorgan Chase employees, particularly, those in Chase bank branches, will continue to work in-person, Dimon says the company will continue have a mix of in-office, hybrid, and fully remote workers, with perhaps up to 10% of the company’s workforce—or about 25,000 employees— in “very specific roles” working full time from home.
JPMorgan was able to quickly set up employees from call centers to trading desks to do their work from home, Dimon notes, saying, “We learned that we could function virtually with Zoom and Cisco and maintain productivity, at least in the short run.” But he also notes that remote work has some “serious weaknesses.” As he put it:
Performing jobs remotely is more successful when people know one another and already have a large body of existing work to do. It does not work as well when people don’t know one another.
Most professionals learn their job through an apprenticeship model, which is almost impossible to replicate in the Zoom world. Over time, this drawback could dramatically undermine the character and culture you want to promote in your company.
A heavy reliance on Zoom meetings actually slows down decision making because there is little immediate follow-up.
And remote work virtually eliminates spontaneous learning and creativity because you don’t run into people at the coffee machine, talk with clients in unplanned scenarios, or travel to meet with customers and employees for feedback on your products and services.
Dimon is not the first bank industry CEO to express hesitations about working from home. Goldman Sachs’ David Solomon called remote work an “aberration” and said he doesn’t want another class of young people arriving at Goldman in the summer remotely. Barclays CEO Jes Staley anticipates his staff of 80,000 to return to the office sometime in 2021. JPMorgan’s approach more closely resembles that of Citigroup, where CEO Jane Fraser also envisions a mixture of office-bound, hybrid, and fully remote employees.
Dimon expects remote work will reduce JPMorgan’s need for real estate; for every 100 employees, he says, the company may only need seats for 60.
He says JPMorgan will still forge ahead with pre-pandemic plans to build a new headquarters tower at 270 Park Avenue in New York City. It would be the second-tallest office building in Manhattan and house between 12,000 to 14,000 employees. It is still, Dimon writes, “the best location in one of the world’s greatest cities.”