Chase hiring flurry continues, more expansion expected
By Zachary S. Fagenson
Chase, the retail banking arm of Wall Street giant JP Morgan Chase & Co., is in the midst of hiring hundreds of added employees for its South Florida branches, and some say there may be more to come.
The move, according to George Acevedo, senior vice president and South Florida market manager for Chase, puts the bank nearer to its goal of bolstering its personal bankers by an additional 180.
Chase's personal bankers act as a kind of quarterback for each customer. They can open checking accounts, make loans and, if licensed, sell mutual funds.
The move was part of the bank's plan long before Chase re-branded Washington Mutual's branches as its own last month.
"Since March, we realized that we needed to add a lot more bankers, sales service associates, financial advisers and loan officers" to our staff, Mr. Acevedo said. "I believe going into 2010 we're going to continue to add more business bankers and more loan officers.
"The plan is to continue to grow in the branches, but we also plan to open up a lot more branches here in Florida," he added.
JP Morgan Chase & Co. purchased now-defunct Washington Mutual from federal regulators in September 2008 for about $1.9 billion. The buyout added 233 branches and 440 ATMs to Chase's network in Florida, which now includes 239 branches and 1,025 ATMs. The bank employs about 13,000 throughout state and about 900 in South Florida.
Mr. Acevedo said the bank also plans to add 60 sales-service associates, 53 loan officers, 30 business bankers and 14 financial advisers. He would not, however, say how many branches the bank plans to open.
But even with the Washington Mutual acquisition, Chase still trails competitors of its size for market share in the Miami metro area, which includes Fort Lauderdale.
Washington Mutual's deposits accounted for 6.06% of the market, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s Web site. Wachovia, now owned by Wells Fargo, held 19.47% of deposits while Bank of America came in at No. 2 with 15.35% of deposits.
"South Florida banking is going to undergo a very significant change in its landscape over the next year," said Ken Thomas, a Miami-based banking consultant and economist.
He added that before an onslaught of mergers and failures, Miami had two trillionaire banks, Bank of America and Citibank. Now, a year later, Miami also has Chase and Wells Fargo.
And according the FDIC's Web site, Chase has some catching up to do in branches with its trillionaire competitors.
As of June 2008, Washington Mutual had 128 branches in the Miami metro area. Wachovia, meanwhile, had 229 while Bank of America ran 201 in the same area.
The gap, Mr. Thomas argued, may be a signal that Chase plans on increasing its offices.
That move, however, could be a double-edged sword for South Florida.
"This is going to be good news for consumers getting an additional big bank in terms of competition," he said, but "not necessarily good news for community banks because they're the ones who'll be hit with… competition."
Still, Chase may not bolster its assets to the level of Wachovia's simply because it targets a different demographic.
"JP Morgan Chase is more of a tennis bank going for wealth management versus a NASCAR bank like BB&T, which some people say stands for barbecue, beer and tobacco," Mr. Thomas said. "Even though [Chase] would like people to think they're a mass-market bank, they're clearly reaching to the upper end."