Jamie Dimon has grown increasingly aggressive behind the scenes with a clampdown on remote work — and insiders say a major reason is likely a certain skyscraper that’s under construction in Midtown Manhattan.
JPMorgan’s hard-charging chief executive has been quietly telling senior managers he expects the mega-bank’s rank and file to be in their seats at the office five days a week — a more stringent standard than the bank’s official line of three days a week, according to sources close to the company.
It’s also more in line with Goldman Sachs — which demanded well over a year ago that everyone return to its offices in downtown Manhattan five days a week. A company spokesman was quick to note the bank has no plans to change its hybrid policy.
Still, there is growing anxiety throughout JPMorgan’s employee ranks as the US economy braces for a “hurricane,” in Dimon’s words. As reported by The Post, whispers of hiring freezes and even layoffs have begun to circulate as dealmaking across Wall Street slows sharply from its red-hot pace during the pandemic
“The worry is if people aren’t in their seats five days a week, those seats could be moved from our team,” a source close to the situation told The Post. “If someone’s not there, it makes it a pretty easy decision to fire them first.”
Dimon has emphasized that banking is an apprenticeship model and employees need to be together to collaborate and work together. There is also the fact, however, that JPMorgan Chase is in the middle of building its new multibillion-dollar global headquarters at 270 Park Ave.
The new building — which will take up an entire city block, stretch 70 stories high and house as many as 15,000 workers — is expected to cost around $3 billion. Dimon doesn’t plan on it being empty when it opens in 2025, industry experts told The Post.
“JPMorgan is a major investor in real estate in NYC — having lower occupancy rates is essentially driving down the assets they have as a bank and that’s a knock-on effect of the shareholder price,” Mike Mayo, bank analyst at Wells Fargo, told The Post.
“Of course there’s that ideological element since they genuinely believe staff is more productive in the office,” Mayo adds. “But they’re going to do everything to safeguard their assets and they can set an example to get more people back. If occupancy goes up in buildings across NYC, it’ll help them.”
Currently, the bank does not require people to be in the office five days a week. However, almost all of the bank’s senior executives at the company’s temporary headquarters at 383 Madison Ave. have been trudging in Monday to Friday, sources add.
And they’ve been busy nudging junior bankers — many of whom are in just three days a week — to show up more frequently.
A JPMorgan spokesperson pointed to an earlier statement the bank issued — and added that the bank has been consistent with the sentiment all along.
“Generally speaking, we envision a model that will find many employees working in a location full-time, some working in a hybrid model (e.g. some days per week in a location and the other days at home), and some employees possibly working full-time from home for very specific roles.”
In this “eat-what-you-kill environment,” face time is critical if an aspiring dealmaker is looking to impress his or her supervisors, one banking source told The Post. The source added, “In the ’80s, we had a saying on Wall Street: They can’t take your desk away from you if you’re sitting at it.”
“Junior bankers would be wise to remember that,” the source adds.
Last year, big banks including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley hiked salaries for entry-level bankers to unprecedented levels, partly because of a feeding frenzy for so-called “blank check” companies, or SPACs — a new vehicle for taking companies public quickly that sparked an unprecedented deal volume last year as the pandemic waned.
But those deals have since dried up, setting the stage for job carnage, sources said. Last month, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley both reported surprisingly steep profit drops. While JPMorgan revealed its investment banking fees tanked 54% in the most recent quarter, Morgan Stanley said its equity underwriting fees were off 86%.
Earlier this summer, JPMorgan reportedly began laying off hundreds of bankers in its mortgage division, citing “cyclical changes.” Insiders suggest bankers focused on SPACs could be next on the chopping block in a matter of weeks.
A short-lived freedom that bankers had enjoyed during the pandemic, hopping from one firm to another in search of more money, is likewise waning. Bosses are regaining the upper hand, even if many junior bankers don’t yet realize it, said Paul Webster, head of recruiting firm Page Executive.
“Candidates are applying and getting offers but not taking them — after last year employees have vastly inflated compensation expectations,” Webster told The Post. “People perceive they’re being underpaid compared to the market, but that kind of money isn’t being spent on candidates now.”