JPMorgan Ends Free Uber Rides For Junior Bankers As Traders Ordered To Return To The Office

Many wondered whether JP Morgan and CEO Jamie Dimon might be left with an embarrassing PR disaster when it emerged earlier this week that another COVID-19 outbreak had been reported inside its Manhattan office building on Madison Ave. After all, the bank was the first on Wall Street to demand that its traders start returning to the office.

But as if that weren't enough, the bank's comms department also publicized research claiming that working from home helped to drain the "creative energy" of its staff. While we imagine some of JPM's clients appreciate the bank's reassuring perspective on the importance of interpersonal collaboration, its junior employees probably don't feel the same.

With senior traders in NYC and London set to return by the end of next week (that's the deadline; to be sure, many are already back, hence the outbreak), Bloomberg reports that the bank has ended a program allowing junior employees to expense Uber ribes to and from work.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. is no longer allowing junior sales and trading staff to take Uber to work on the company dime, reversing a measure enacted early in the coronavirus pandemic to help workers feel comfortable commuting to the office.

The change was communicated by managers last week, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing an internal policy. The move comes as more of the bank’s workers make plans to resume working at offices in New York and London, with senior traders required to return next week.

JPMorgan started reimbursing employees for Uber and taxi rides to the office for traders below the managing director level right after the pandemic started so they wouldn’t have to use public transportation. Some of the bank’s more senior traders had been walking or driving to work.

Like many corporate employers, JPM allowed employees to take precautions like using ride shares instead of taking hte subway. But particularly in places like NYC, those costs add up. However, as whoever leaked the news about the decision clearly emphasized, anxieties about the NYC subway's maintenance and sanitary practices are adding to a host of worries shouldered by junior employees.

With New York officials taking extensive measures to make sure subway cars are clean and safe -- including ensuring mask use by riders -- some at the bank believe the city’s attempts to return to normalcy warrant a similar return to pre-pandemic policies, according to one of the people briefed on the changes.

JPMorgan spokesman Brian Marchiony declined to comment.

The change in policy is fueling anxiety among many junior workers who are uncomfortable taking the subway and buses, some of the people said. The concern is that, as more companies bring workers back, ridership on public transit will increase, making it less safe at a time when experts are forecasting a significant increase in Covid-19 cases this fall. Trading floors that will become more crowded as employees return to the office only exacerbate the situation, workers fear.

Many probably sympathized with Amazon warehouse workers after the company said it would end their hazard pay while outbreaks raged on at certain warehouses and distribution centers.

But junior bankers being forced to take the subway? Not so much. They better hope NYC doesn't see another rebound this fall.