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STRAIGHT TO NOTHING

Bankers are just as excited to give up voicemail as you are

Like almost everybody else, JPMorgan Chase employees don’t want to check voicemails anymore.

Gordon Smith, who leads the bank’s consumer and community banking unit said at a investor conference Tuesday that workers at his unit of the bank are axing voicemail as part of an expense purge.

You’ve heard Jamie talk about driving waste out of the company and the infamous black cars and so on. We’ve even gone through — so all of you who are on voicemail, it’s about $10 a month for voice messages, to have voicemail — and we realized that hardly anyone uses voicemail anymore… We’re all carrying something in our pockets that’s going to get texts or e-mail or a phone call to you, and so we started to cut those off. So we’ve just gone through meticulously looking at the expense statement, driving out waste and dealing with the structural issues which will permanently reduce the cost structure for the business.

A JPMorgan Chase spokeswoman said that the cuts, which are already underway, affect workers who don’t usually deal directly with the public. (“I’ve gotten quite a few voicemail voicemails,” she told Quartz). She also said the decision to do away with voicemail was more popular with workers than she had initially expected. Instead of shutting 50% of voicemail lines, managers said that 65% of employees volunteered to abandon voicemail.

JPMorgan isn’t the first entity to cut their spending on voicemail. Coca-Cola said in December that it was shutting down $100,000 worth of voicemail lines at its headquarters. The JPM spokeswoman said its savings would be a bit more substantial, at $3.2 million a year.

And while JPMorgan’s decision is part of a large push by banks to cut expenses, it also underscores a shift away from a technology that many see as a drag on corporate productivity. In 2013, Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business wrote in the Harvard Business Review:

That the technology is in decline is no secret. In 2012, Vonage reported its year-over-year voicemail volumes dropped 8%. More revealing, the number of people bothering to retrieve those messages plummeted 14%. More and more personal and corporate voicemail boxes now warn callers that their messages are rarely retrieved and that they’re better off sending emails or texts. Consequently, informal individual policies have metastasized into de facto institutional practice … The truly productive have effectively abandoned voicemail, preferring to visually track who’s called them on their mobiles.