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Most JPMorgan, Stifel Employees to Return to Offices

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What You Need to Know

  • In recent letters to shareholders, the firms’ CEOs stressed the importance of employees shifting away from remote work.
  • Technology came in handy during the pandemic, but can't replace working together in person, they said.
  • Neither CEO provided an exact time frame for when most of their employees will return to their offices.

Most advisors and other employees who work for JPMorgan and Stifel will have to return to their offices eventually, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic finally ends, according to comments made by each firm’s CEO in their recent annual letters to shareholders.

“One of the few silver linings of the pandemic is that it spurred us to adopt new tools and technologies for the workplace,” Ronald Kruszewski, Stifel CEO and chairman, said in his letter to shareholders last month, as reported by Financial Advisor IQ on Monday.

However, “now, even after the demonstrated success of remote work, we must plan for life after COVID-19,” he went on to say. “There is no doubt in my mind about the importance of physically working together. The benefits are clear — in training, collaborating, innovating, networking, and more. It is simply the best way to continue to build on our culture.”

Noting that as he was writing the letter the U.S. was “in the process of vaccination,” he went on to say: “I can see life returning to some normalcy, although not yet to completely pre-pandemic conditions. For Stifel, this will include a return to our offices. Rest assured, I am committed to ensuring that this occurs in a safe and fair manner.”

Kruszewski didn’t provide any specifics on a return-to-office time frame.

Similarly, Jamie Dimon, CEO and chairman of JPMorgan, pointed out in his letter to shareholders on April 7 how effective technology had been during the pandemic but went on to stress that most of his firm’s employees will be returning to the office at some point although he too didn’t provide a specific time frame.

“While many of our employees, particularly in the branches, continued to work on our premises every day, it was amazing how quickly we were able to set up the technology — from call centers and operations to trading and investment banking — to enable our employees to work from home,” Dimon said. “We learned that we could function virtually with Zoom and Cisco and maintain productivity, at least in the short run.”

The pandemic “changed the way we work in many ways, but, for the most part, it only accelerated ongoing trends,” he pointed out, echoing what many executives have said in recent months.

However, “while working from home will become more permanent in American business, it needs to work for both the company and its clients,” he said.

For JPMorgan, he said: “Generally speaking, we envision a model that will find many employees working in a location full time. That would include nearly all of the employees in our retail bank branches, as well as jobs in check processing, vaults, lockbox, sales and trading, critical operations functions and facilities, amenities, security, medical staff and many others.”

Meanwhile, “some employees will be working under a hybrid model (e.g., some days per week in a location and the other days at home)” and “a small percentage of employees, maybe 10%, will possibly be working full time from home for very specific roles,” he said.

Those decisions will always “depend upon what is optimal for our company and our clients, and we will extensively monitor and analyze outcomes to ensure this is the case,” he explained. “Of course, we will also continue to reopen following health authority and government guidelines and our own established processes.”

Remote work will change how the firm manages its real estate, he went on to point out. “We will quickly move to a more ‘open seating’ arrangement, in which digital tools will help manage seating arrangements, as well as needed amenities, such as conference room space. As a result, for every 100 employees, we may need seats for only 60 on average. This will significantly reduce our need for real estate.”

However, JPMorgan still plans to build its new headquarters in New York City, he said. “We will, of course, consolidate even more employees into this building, which will house between 12,000 to 14,000 employees. We are extremely excited about the building’s public spaces, state-of-the-art technology, and health and wellness amenities, among many other features.”

Despite the importance of technology, the “virtual world also presented some serious weaknesses,” he noted. For example, “performing jobs remotely is more successful when people know one another and already have a large body of existing work to do [and] does not work as well when people don’t know one another.”

Also, “most professionals learn their job through an apprenticeship model, which is almost impossible to replicate in the Zoom world,” he said. “Over time, this drawback could dramatically undermine the character and culture you want to promote in your company.”

Additionally, he said: “A heavy reliance on Zoom meetings actually slows down decision making because there is little immediate follow-up. And remote work virtually eliminates spontaneous learning and creativity because you don’t run into people at the coffee machine, talk with clients in unplanned scenarios, or travel to meet with customers and employees for feedback on your products and services.”

Pictured: Stifel CEO Ronald Kruszewski (Photo: Bloomberg)