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JPMorgan sends some workers home after exposure to COVID-19

September 15, 2020. Print article

JPMorgan Chase, the largest U.S. bank by assets, sent some of its staff in New York home this week after one of its equity traders tested positive for COVID-19, ahead of plans to reopen the bank’s trading floor. 

The infected employee worked on the fifth floor of the bank’s office building at 383 Madison Avenue, Bloomberg reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed source. Staff were notified of the news on Sunday, according to the person, who told Bloomberg that the information is not public. 

A JPMorgan spokesperson told Fastinform that the bank has been managing individual cases across the firm over the course of the past few months and following appropriate protocols. The spokesperson declined to comment on the case that reportedly prompted a notification to staff. 

The spokesperson declined to say whether the latest infection would affect plans to reopen parts of the bank. CEO Jamie Dimon has suggested that the bank is likely to continue bringing workers back to the office on a rotating basis. 

Dimon, who reportedly has been going into JPMorgan’s offices since June, warned state leaders that they should begin to cautiously reopen cities to avoid long-lasting economic damage and to potentially avoid a second downturn.

“Going back to work is a good thing,” Dimon told a virtual panel Tuesday during the Singapore Summit, adding that a sustained lockdown has hurt productivity of bank employees and stirred “alienation” among its younger workers.

JPMorgan, the largest employer in the U.S. financial sector, instructed senior members of its sales and trading staff last week that their teams must be back at the workplace by Sept. 21, barring major health or family concerns. 

The decision comes in spite of record trading performance at JPMorgan in the second quarter while much of its trading staff worked from home. The bank posted $9.72 billion in trading revenue in the second quarter, 79% more than a year earlier and exceeding analyst expectations. 

Bank executives believe working in the office boosts corporate culture, fosters workplace cohesion and aids in training, a person familiar with the bank’s reopening plans told Fastinform. The person said the bank has a new class of analysts soon joining the firm. 

JPMorgan initially reacted to the outbreak in March by sending a majority of its workers home, and many of them have yet to return to their offices since. By June, it brought back about 20% of its workforce and had planned on getting half of its employees back by mid-July.

The bank has since tempered its return-to-work plan. In early July, JPMorgan tabled plans to reopen facilities in Columbus, Ohio, after a triple-digit spike in daily virus cases in the state. As of Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. had over 250,000 new infections in the last week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Last month, the bank unveiled a new model in which employees at its corporate and investment bank would take turns working from home and working from the office for varying amounts of time. 

The new model was first tested by JPMorgan’s trading unit, with its New York buildings reaching 30% capacity in late August, compared to 10% across all company buildings in the city. 

--Additional reporting by Carrie Wood, Owen Poindexter and Allie Ciaramella