Back in 2004, when JPMorgan Chase & Co. bought Bank One, Columbus leaders feared the worst: That the deal would mean a loss of jobs for the region.
Instead the opposite happened, and now the bank’s chairman and CEO believes Columbus is on track to one day surpass the 25,000 workers at its headquarters in New York City.
“We have almost 20,000 employees here. It will probably be bigger than our employees in New York in the next five or 10 years,’’ Jamie Dimon told The Dispatch in a wide-ranging interview in Columbus this week.
The bank currently has about 18,000 employees in the region, about half of them at the massive McCoy Center at Polaris. It has other offices in Westerville and Columbus.
Columbus lost the Bank One headquarters when Bank One acquired First Chicago in 1998 and moved the headquarters there. Chase then bought Bank One in 2004.
“Columbus was still angry about it,” Dimon said.
But as Dimon told Columbus workers at a town hall at the McCoy Center on Tuesday, “Look if we do a good job, we’re going to do a great job in Columbus. Columbus has been a great home.”
Dimon cited the bank’s new virtual banking service as one reason why Chase, already the largest private employer in the region, will continue to add staff in Columbus.
The service allows Chase customers with a checking or savings account, or credit card, to establish a relationship with a banker over the phone or online.
The service that began more than two years ago with a handful of bankers is now more than 150 bankers, who are based primarily at the Polaris offices.
“If those work, we would expand them dramatically. It’s not like 100 people,’’ Dimon said.
Columbus has the talent to support rolling out such new services, as Ohio State University and other colleges and universities supply a steady stream of hires for Chase, Dimon said.
Chase’s operations in Columbus house specialists in technology, real estate marketing, retail and other services. The region has 5,000 Chase technology workers, and workers have come here from around the world, he said.
“They’re happy to be here. They love Columbus,” he said.
In fact, Dimon said workers are reluctant to leave Columbus to take jobs elsewhere with Chase.
“We have a hard time getting people out of Columbus,” he said.
Jamie Dimon’s back-to-work philosophy
The trip to Columbus this week is Dimon’s first since Chase reopened in offices in May.
“As things are opening up, I want to go see our people,” he said.
In addition to the town hall, Dimon met this week with clients and his senior leadership team in Columbus.
“People are thrilled that this thing, hopefully, is in the rear view mirror. We don’t completely know, but it certainly looks that way in America,’’ Dimon said of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dimon continues to push to get workers back to the office even as he recognizes there could be good reasons why some workers can’t come back yet. Chase workers are currently on a hybrid schedule that requires them to be in the office at least half the time.
Dimon, who has been going to the office regularly since June 2020, said he took a trip to California last year where he and Chase bankers met with venture capitalists, CEOs and clients outdoors.
“You go back after 2 1/2 days and you’re loaded,” he said. “You’re smarter, know more, you’re invigorated. So going back to work is important.”
Does Chase require vaccinations?
Chase hasn’t mandated that workers get vaccinated, but it has asked them about their status. Workers who aren’t vaccinated still must wear masks and practice social distancing.
“There will be hybrid work, but it’s not quite clear how that’s going to work yet,” he said.
When Dimon suggested in a memo to staff that the bank may require workers to be vaccinated, Dimon said he received some negative comments.
“I’m thinking about what is proper for our people,” he said.
“Part of me (says) you are free not to get vaccinated, and I am free not to have you come to work here anymore,” he said. “We simply don’t know the answer.”
Dimon said he believes schools reopening this fall will be an important aspect in getting more people back to the office.
“I think it will look and feel much more like normal,” he said. “It already does.”
Here’s what the CEO of one of the largest banks in the world had to say on other topics:
The U.S. economy
The U.S. economy looks strong, and the consumer is in much better shape than during the financial crisis more than a decade ago, when consumers were carrying far more debt than they could handle, he said.
Credit and debit-card spending among Chase customers is 20% higher than before the coronavirus struck, he said, and while business travel is still lagging, consumer travel is at record levels.
“We are coming out of this cocoon,” he said. “There’s tons of money, fiscal stimulus.”
Jobs are plentiful, and wages are going up.
“The pump is primed, it’s ready to go,” he said.
Commercial real estate
Commercial real estate is under some strain, especially in markets such as Chicago, San Francisco and New York, where rents along with home prices are down as companies work to figure out exactly how much space they’ll need going forward, he said.
Open office seating will become more common, and that will reduce the amount of space companies need, he said.
“You’ll probably still be expanding here,” he said.
Dimon praised the steps taken by the government along with the infrastructure initiatives.
“The government did the right thing. They saw a disaster and took very quick action,” he said.
The most important thing is for the money to be well spent, he said.
“If it’s bridges to nowhere, that will be bad for productivity, inflation, wages and our sense of competency,” he said.