JPMorgan Chase bank has committed to paying its newly hired tellers, bankers and branch managers in the Washington area a minimum of $18 an hour, the company announced Tuesday, part of a national expansion plan that is expected to bring hundreds of entry-level jobs to the area.
JPMorgan Mid-Atlantic Region Chairman Peter Scher said his company wants to do better than the District’s $13.25 minimum wage so it can attract the right people at all levels of the company. The company has also made a commitment that 40 percent of its entry-level workers should later move up within the firm, he said.
“We think it’s important to pay people fairly,” Scher said, “and we think that will allow us to attract top talent and retain top talent.”
The bank is in the early phases of a national expansion that will bring its bricks-and-mortar locations to the greater Washington region for the first time, eventually creating up to an estimated 700 positions at 70 Washington-area bank branches.
The bank opened its first D.C. branch on Oct. 1, at 1401 New York Ave. NW near the McPherson Square Metro station, and held an official grand opening celebration there on Tuesday.
Also on Tuesday, Chase offered a sneak peek of its Anacostia branch, unveiling a set of murals that the bank commissioned through Arts on the Block, a local nonprofit organization that works with middle school and high school artists.
The bank plans to open five more branches this year in the region, including two in Wards 7 and 8 to the east of the Anacostia River, one in Columbia Heights, one in Navy Yard and one in Arlington. Branches at Fort Benning and Columbia Heights will also have murals, a company representative said.
Chase has been enjoying a financial windfall in recent years that has been bolstered by last year’s corporate tax overhaul.
Like much of Wall Street, Chase has seen its business expand thanks to deregulatory initiatives and tax savings sponsored by a Republican-controlled Congress and executive branch over the past two years.
The company’s stock price is up more than 60 percent over the past few years. In its most recent earnings statement, the company reported revenue of $27.8 billion with earnings per share of $2.34, beating analysts’ estimates.
The D.C. expansion comes at a time when Chase has been downsizing its global employment footprint. At a Nov. 6 conference in New York, Chief Operating Officer Gordon Smith said the company employs between 13,000 and 14,000 fewer people than it did before 2014, down from a base of about 50,000. The company has been shrinking its call centers and operating branches with a smaller back-office staff.
The employment footprint of each bank branch is getting smaller even as Chase opens additional branches, Smith said, and the bank is also pursuing a thinner presence in its older markets.
“The actual footprint of the branch is getting smaller, the cost to operate it is getting smaller; but the power of the branch for the customer is just extremely important,” Smith said. “The other thing we’ve done is thin the network within the geographies that we’re in. So if there may have been three branches in a two-block radius, we might go down to two. And I’ve developed, I think, a pretty robust playbook to make sure as we do that, we keep all of the customers and that’s given us operating efficiency as well. He said financial returns on the first D.C. branch have been “well beyond their expectations, really pleasing.”
The bank recently increased companywide minimum wages across the nation, giving about 22,000 employees pay raises in the range of 10 percent. It is making the choice of expanding its bricks-and-mortar footprint when the consumer banking industry as a whole is shedding physical locations in favor of websites and apps.
The number of bank branches in the District, Maryland and Virginia fell to just 4,000 in 2018 from 4,732 in 2010, according to records maintained by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
The new minimum wage is part of a broader set of efforts by Chase to win goodwill in Washington. Last year, it announced a $10 million charitable contribution to extend economic development efforts in the District’s eastern Wards 7 and 8, which are home to lower-income neighborhoods. It later announced a commitment to donate an additional $15 million to a selection of local nonprofit groups and foundations.