JPMorgan Chase tests a coronavirus plan that has thousands telecommuting

The JPMorgan Chase headquarters in New York.
(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is asking thousands of U.S. employees to work from home as it tests a contingency plan for closing domestic offices should the coronavirus spread, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Managers requested that about 10% of staff across its consumer bank work remotely as part of the plan’s resiliency testing, which has been code-named “Project Kennedy,” said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. JPMorgan’s consumer bank, which primarily operates in the U.S., has 127,137 employees, the most of any of the firm’s divisions.

Banks around the globe have been working to ensure they can keep their businesses running as the coronavirus spreads, restricting travel, splitting up teams and traders amid locations, and quarantining staff. They’re also dusting off regulatory plans for keeping “critical operations” open through a potential pandemic, some of which describe things such as how far apart traders should sit from each other, or how many can work remotely.


JPMorgan’s leaders have been double-checking contingency plans to be sure the firm can continue to serve customers in the event of widespread disruptions. For the consumer bank, testing the telecommuting policy on a sampling of employees across businesses can ensure kinks are worked out before the plan needs to be rolled out more broadly in the event of a pandemic, one of the people said.

The moves are part of broader resiliency planning at the bank. The firm last week restricted nonessential international travel for all employees and has been urging workers to test their remote-access capabilities. JPMorgan has also been testing out systems at backup trading sites over the past few days in case workers need to be moved off of the main trading floors in New York and London, one of the people said.

A JPMorgan spokesman declined to comment.

While technology has made it possible for a growing number of professionals to do their jobs remotely, working from home generally isn’t an option for branch workers like tellers and bankers who deal directly with customers. JPMorgan had 4,976 branches around the country as of the end of December that are filled with thousands of employees who have to show up to work for business to run.

The bank is providing extra hand sanitizer to customer-facing branch workers and taking extra steps to sanitize offices, branches and equipment, including elevator call buttons and door handles, according to a memo from Co-President Gordon Smith to consumer bank staff on Friday.

Big banks around the world are rushing to ensure they can keep Wall Street humming through a coronavirus pandemic.

Feb. 28, 2020


JPMorgan also is encouraging consumers to access bank services and products through digital channels instead of walking into branches when they can.

“This can make their life easier all the time,” Smith wrote.

Global cases of the new coronavirus, officially named COVID-19, have reached 92,860 and it’s spread to at least 76 countries and regions, resulting in 3,162 deaths, after originating in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Last week, concerns about the outbreak roiled global financial markets and sent mortgage rates to record lows. That prompted JPMorgan to shift scores of workers to its mortgage group to handle a surge in demand for home loans, people familiar with the matter said last week. On Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve delivered an emergency half-percentage-point interest rate cut in a bid to protect the longest-ever economic expansion.