But what is interesting is that Dimon, viewed as a leader in the banking sector, is at the forefront of his industry, at a time when competitive and regulatory forces have forced change.
"Our minimum salary for American employees today is $10.15 an hour ... almost $3 above the current national minimum wage," Dimon wrote. "Over the next three years, we will raise the minimum pay for 18,000 workers to $12 to $16.50 an hour, depending on geographic and market factors." Dimon also said JPMorgan will spend $200 million on training for entry-level employees this year, and is expecting to train 30 percent more employees this year, many of whom are tellers.
JPMorgan said that 90 percent of the employees affected by the new policy are located in regions where hourly wages will increase to between $13.50 and $16.50. Workers in the New York City and San Francisco metro areas will see their base pay increase to $16.50 an hour in 2019, while the new base pay for employees in Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles and Washington will increase to $15 per hour in 2019.
There are about 185,000 JPMorgan employees and those who will benefit from the increase are bank branch tellers and customer service representatives for the consumer and community banking business.
"He's one of the more prominent in an industry where you would not expect it," said Diane Swonk, CEO of DS Economics. She said bank teller employment did not really collapse as automated teller machines took on many of the bank employees' roles, but it did not expand either.
"They did not grow as fast as overall employment. There's a lot of movement where bank branches are being closed and replaced by online banking, and in other places they're being enhanced. This is the question going forward. The industry is restructuring. The regulators would like to make banks utilities and the banks, in their desire to survive and not become utilities, are looking at where they can make money. They're trying to differentiate themselves from pure financial technology-based companies."
As for Dimon's comments on wage increases and training, she said: "I think it's about retention. I would be surprised if they hired that many people." Swonk said average hourly wages for financial activities workers have been increasing lately at a bit more than 2 percent, well below the 4 percent growth seen in leisure, which has the fastest wage growth in the minimum wage sectors.
Financial activities include nonsupervisory workers, at such institutions as banks and insurance companies. The wages were growing at more than 6 percent in 2007, fell sharply in the recession, jumped to a 5 percent increase in 2012 but have been trending at 2 to 3 percent since 2013, she said.
Swonk pointed out that a number of companies that made announcements about wage hikes were already seeing wages rise based on state mandates. She said one area where there could be a loss of jobs is in retail as stores like Macy's and Wal-Mart close locations. Retail wages had gone up more but have seen smaller gains recently.
Dimon noted that JPMorgan's lower-compensated workers also receive a medical plan — subsidized up to 90 percent by the company — along with dental, vision and other health-care coverage. The company also recently raised other benefits, including a 401(k), a pension, a special annual award, paid family leave, paid vacation and bereavement, Dimon said, in the Times op-ed. In total, the annualized value of all of benefits for lower-paid employees averages about $11,000 a year above existing wages.
"Wages for many Americans have gone nowhere for too long," he wrote in the Times. "Many employees who will receive this increase work as bank tellers and customer service representatives. Above all, it enables more people to begin to share in the rewards of economic growth."