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Jamie Dimon sees long-term damage if people don't get back to work

[NEW YORK] JPMorgan Chase chief executive officer, who's been going into the bank's offices since June, said he sees economic and social damage from a longer stretch of working-from-home. Governments should be focused on cautiously reopening cities, learning from earlier mistakes made in hasty attempts, he said.

"Going back to work is a good thing," Mr Dimon said in a virtual panel discussion Tuesday at the Singapore Summit. It makes sense to "carefully open up and see if we can get the economy growing for the sake of everybody." Mr Dimon told analysts at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods that the firm has noted productivity slipping from employees working at home, the analysts said in a Sept 13 note to clients. That, along with worries that remote work is no substitute for in-person interaction, is part of why the biggest US bank is urging more workers to return to offices in coming weeks.

Mr Dimon said Tuesday that the bank has seen "alienation" among younger workers, and he worries about "a lot more damage by people staying home" in broader society.

"You can create more deaths from depression, overdose if we're not real careful and manage those things," he said, adding that social problems festering during extended lockdowns could be compounded "if we have another downturn." Of the biggest US banks, JPMorgan has been the most bold in moving to restaff its offices, with an aim of bringing as much as 50 per cent of workers back in New York in coming weeks even as the virus continues to claim lives. Wells Fargo plans to keep most of its staff working from home through at least Nov 1, and BNY Mellon told most of its workers not to return until at least next year. Citigroup plans to ramp up attendance in the New York-area starting next month but will cap daily attendance at 30 per cent.

"There will be permanent changes from this," Mr Dimon said. But "we're saying these places are clean. We've got social distancing" in effect in offices.

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