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Jamie Dimon doesn’t see a return to normal until middle of next year

Michelle F. Davis
Bloomberg

Jamie Dimon sees a need to begin returning to what work looked like at the start of 2020, but he concedes the path to normal is still a long one.

JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s chief executive officer said his firm, which has been among the boldest on Wall Street in bringing employees back to the office, is still aiming for just 15% to 25% of capacity. Local regulations, a lack of a vaccine and workers’ personal circumstances will likely make fully staffing the bank’s offices impossible until the middle of next year at the earliest, he said.

“I don’t expect normality until summer 2021,” Dimon said Friday at a conference hosted by asset-management industry group Nicsa. “We’re going to have to live with this.”

In this April 10, 2019, file photo JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon testifies before the House Financial Services Committee. Dimon  said Tuesday, May 26, 2020, that he sees “pretty good odds” of a fast economic rebound starting in the third quarter.

The new version of normal will feature more people permanently working from home. Zoom meetings with customers are likely here to stay and business travel won’t pick back up until some point next year either, he said. Dimon himself is just starting to see clients again.

“We’re starting to see some people get back on the road,” he said. “I think it can be done quite safely. Some are afraid. We’ll see.”

Dimon, the longest-serving CEO of a major Wall Street bank, has been going into the firm’s offices since June. He’s previously advocated for governments to cautiously reopen cities to help the economy recover, predicting long-term economic and social damage from a longer stretch of widespread working-from-home.

The U.S. is headed for its worst week of Covid-19 in months as a resurgence takes hold in the Northeast and outbreaks in the Midwest result in unprecedented death. New York and New Jersey recorded the most new cases in more than four months.

Dimon said Friday that as many as 40% of staffers could work from home even after the pandemic, with some on rotations in and out of the office.

“Work-from-home has to work for clients and customers not just for employees,” he said.

In the wide-ranging remarks, Dimon also said the government’s stimulus had helped stave off the pandemic’s immediate damage to the economy but that he wasn’t sure recent improvements would continue. He said the government should provide more stimulus to “keep the economy growing so we don’t stall.”

Reacting to Morgan Stanley’s agreement to buy Eaton Vance Corp., Dimon said he expects to see more merger activity in the asset-management industry, and that JPMorgan is open to deals, too.

“My line is open, call me up,” Dimon said. “For the right thing and the right price. It could be something big, something small.”

In February, Dimon had said that the bank had a greater appetite for deals than in previous years, and that leaders were looking “aggressively” at possible acquisitions across its businesses.