JPMorgan’s Erdoes lauds ‘more thinking time’ for at-home staff

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For all the hand-wringing about the sustainability of extended remote work, one group is finding the time to be particularly productive: asset management employees.

That’s according to Mary Erdoes, who runs asset and wealth management at JPMorgan Chase. The biggest U.S. bank has been inviting more workers back to its offices over the past few months, but staffers in Erdoes’s industry will probably be among the last to return, she said at a virtual conference Thursday.

“The asset management industry in particular has found it is quite productive to work from home,” Erdoes said. “You have much more thinking time.”

Erdoes’s comments show how views about remote work can differ even among executives at the same firm. Her boss, Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, has made the case for a broader return to the office, saying his firm has seen “alienation” among younger workers and that an extended stretch of working from home could bring long-term economic and social damage. He’s also expressed concerns about productivity among certain groups.

About 20% of staff across the firm had returned to JPMorgan’s offices in New York by mid-October, executives said at the time. Members of the bank’s senior operating committee, including Dimon, spent time working from the bank’s offices for most of the summer in an effort to show that newly reconfigured offices were safe.

“The floors are busy, but that’s not the case for my asset and wealth management unit,” Erdoes said Thursday, speaking from the bank’s headquarters in New York. About 97% of the unit’s staff — some 23,000 people — moved to remote work when the coronavirus pandemic hit in March. “Of all sectors that I think will come back to work in the office fastest, I would put asset management at the end of the list.”

Dimon’s been allowing individual business leaders to determine when staff need to return to the office, depending on guidance from local government and health authorities. With COVID-19 infections surging around the world, banks are having to send workers home again. Earlier this week, JPMorgan and Citigroup joined rivals in asking the vast majority of employees in England to work from home following government rules to stem a surge in infections.

JPMorgan told thousands of office workers across its consumer unit at the end of September that they can keep working remotely until next year, breaking with the firm’s Wall Street operations, which told senior traders to return to the office.

Bloomberg News
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