JPMorgan Chase & Co. executives told senior employees of the bank’s giant sales and trading operation that they and their teams must return to the office by Sept. 21, according to people familiar with the matter.
Trading chief Troy Rohrbaugh and Marc Badrichani, the bank’s global head of sales and research, delivered the message in conference calls Wednesday morning, the people said. The two executives said employees with child-care issues and medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to coronavirus complications can continue working from home, the people added.
Like most New York City office workers, Wall Street traders and bankers scattered to the winds when coronavirus shut down the city in March. Workers began trickling back into their skyscrapers in June, when the city began reopening, but financial firms largely haven’t ordered employees to return en masse.
Before JPMorgan sent employees home in mid-March, a coronavirus outbreak sickened more than a dozen people on the fifth floor of its Madison Avenue office. By fully reopening its trading floor, the bank is sending a message to its employees—and its competitors—that it is now safe to return.
Going remote was hard for Wall Street. Trading floors thrive on shoptalk, banter and elaborate technology setups. Clannish teams share takeout meals during long hours spent in tight spaces. When markets were melting down in the pandemic’s early days, veteran traders and their bosses worried that their home offices weren’t equipped to handle the chaos.
Yet for many bank executives, the past six months have proved what they previously thought was impossible: Trading could take place seamlessly outside the walls of densely populated office towers. Remote-login systems worked and home internet connections didn’t fail. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. kept Zoom channels open all day to bring the trading floor, with its noisy squawk boxes and hoots, to employees’ home offices.
Wild markets sent investment banking and trading revenue to an eight-year high in the first half of 2020, according to industry research group Coalition, which compiled data from the 12 largest global investment-banking firms.
The strong showing has some on Wall Street questioning the need to come back to the office at all. Many of the technology companies that poach Wall Street’s top talent have made remote work permanent. In response, some banks are following suit—at least for part of the week.
Deutsche Bank AG sales and trading staffers are making bespoke arrangements to work from home two or three days a week even after the pandemic ends, according to people familiar with the matter.
In a note to employees Tuesday, UBS Group AG co-presidents of the investment bank, Piero Novelli and Robert Karofsky, said “flexibility and remote working” are here to stay, according to a readout of the memo. “We expect you to return at your own pace and when you feel comfortable,” they wrote.
At JPMorgan, trading revenue across fixed-income and equities surged 79% year-over-year to $9.7 billion in the second quarter, a record.
Messrs. Rohrbaugh and Badrichani told employees that camaraderie would suffer and junior staffers wouldn’t get the training they need if trading staff remained at home full time, according to people familiar with the matter.
Still, employees are wary. To calm their nerves and prepare them for the transition, JPMorgan recently pushed out a mandatory training program explaining the new office rules, the people said. Animated figures wearing masks outline hand-washing procedures and hallway etiquette.