Money & Banking

JP Morgan sends traders home after worker gets Covid-19

Bloomberg September 16 | Updated on September 16, 2020

Problem highlights challenges that banks face as they try to bring more staff back to the office after months of remote work

JPMorgan Chase & Co sent some of its Manhattan workers home this week after an employee in equities trading tested positive for Covid-19, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

News of the infection, on the fifth floor of the company’s 383 Madison Avenue building, was communicated to employees on September 13, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing information that isn’t public.

That was less than a week after more workers began returning to offices following the Labour Day holiday, and just days after the biggest US bank told senior traders they would be required to return by September 21.

The case shows the challenges banks face as they try to bring more staff back to the office after months of remote work. JPMorgan has been among the boldest banks in calling workers back, and Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon spoke earlier on Tuesday about his concerns that extended work-from-home could have its own consequences.

A JPMorgan spokesman said he could not comment on any one case but that the bank has been managing individual cases across the firm over the course of the last few months and following appropriate protocols when they occur.

The infection is something of a deja vu for the bank. In April, there was an outbreak on the same floor inside JPMorgan’s temporary headquarters on Madison Avenue, with at least 16 people testing positive on a single trading floor.

Trump’s ill-timed tweet

While JPMorgan has been opening its offices to more staff over the past few months, few were initially required to return. The decision to require senior traders to return spurred a tweet last week from President Donald Trump, whos been pushing for businesses and schools across the US to reopen. Trump applauded the bank’s move, though he inaccurately said it applied to all employees. The push to get workers back is fuelling anxiety among workers who worry the bank is putting profits over their safety.

Also read When ‘work from home’ works, and when it doesn’t

Dimon, who has been going into the bank’s offices since June, said Tuesday that he sees economic and social damage from a longer stretch of working from home. Governments should be focussed on cautiously reopening cities, learning from earlier mistakes made in hasty attempts, he said.

“Going back to work is a good thing,” Dimon said during a virtual panel discussion at the Singapore Summit. “It makes sense to carefully open up and see if we can get the economy growing for the sake of everybody.”

Dimon recently told Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analysts that productivity has slipped as employees work from home, with output particularly affected on Mondays and Fridays.

More on that here Employee productivity slipped during ‘work from home’, finds JPMorgan

JPMorgan spokesman Michael Fusco added that younger workers could be disadvantaged by missed learning opportunities by not being in offices.

Published on September 16, 2020

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