JPMorgan Chase closing 1,000 branches to help slow pandemic

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JPMorgan Chase will temporarily close about 1,000 branches in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, becoming the first of the largest retail banks to shutter branches because of the pandemic.

According to a story first reported by the Financial Times, JPMorgan said in a staff memo on Wednesday that it would close 20% of its 4,976 branches. The bank also told some branch workers, including advisers and small-business bankers, that they can work from home beginning Thursday.

The approximately 4,000 branches that remain open will operate under shorter hours. The bank said that it would still pay branch employees for their usual hours if their branch is closed or their hours reduced.

“Starting tomorrow, we will reduce the number of open branches,” the bank told employees in a memo. “This will help us protect our employees as we provide essential services to our customers and the communities we serve.”

It did not say which branches it will close or for how long, but a spokeswoman told American Banker that it ensured low- and moderate-income areas would be covered. The bank also said that it would give employees two additional paid days off and extended the time that employees could carry over vacation days from 2019 through June.

Many banks have already taken other steps to limit the spread of COVID-19, which first appeared in the U.S. in late January but has spread fast in the past two weeks. Epidemiologists and authorities have strongly urged people to distance themselves from other people to slow the disease’s spread.

In response, many banks have restricted or eliminated employee travel and sent employees out of the office to work from home, if they can. Some banks have also limited branch access to the drive-through window. Regions Financial in Birmingham, Ala., also announced Wednesday that it would limit branch visits to the drive-through window hours or by appointment.

“Our teams are committed to delivering financial services, advice and guidance for the people and businesses of our communities,” Scott Peters, Regions’ head of consumer banking, said in a press release. “This change will help us do so in a way that helps minimize risks related to coronavirus while also maintaining the ability of our local bankers to meet the critical financial needs of our customers.”

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