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Chase bank’s oldest employee is 86, and going strong

Nella Bedford, 86, of Hurst, Texas, began working at a bank that would become part of JPMorgan Chase 60 years ago.
Source: JPMorgan Chase
Nella Bedford, 86, of Hurst, Texas, began working at a bank that would become part of JPMorgan Chase 60 years ago.

Forget 30 under 30, she's No. 1 under 90.

Chase has an employee who started working in the industry (and at a bank that is now part of Chase's nationwide web of consumer banks) before Jamie Dimon, the current CEO of JPMorgan Chase was even born.

Nella Bedford joined the bank that would become part of JPMorgan Chase in February 1956; the U.S. population was a not-so-whopping 169 million. Her path (which is still continuing) mirrors the tale of the banking industry as a whole, spanning decades as numerous institutions were ultimately merged up into one financial services monolith employing 240,000 people with a market cap of $241 billion.

People who take issue with the financial services industry's male-dominated composition today might be surprised at the workplace Bedford entered 60 years ago. When she started, she was the only woman working among a sea of male tellers at Fort Worth National Bank.

"The dress code is different, that's for sure," Bedford said. "I wasn't allowed to wear pants" when she started her job at the Fort Worth bank.

That would remain the case at some banks of that era for decades.

Bedford never left Texas, and she circulated through roles dealing with clients, filling in for administrative staffers, and working in credit divisions. In 1999, she retired from full-time work, but she's spent the last 17 years working on projects including mailings at Chase. She's the most senior staffer at the bank, although it's not clear whether there's anyone on the JPMorgan side of the company who has a longer track record.

Along the way, Bedford raised three children (when Bedford was a working, mothers didn't enjoy the protections they were granted under The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993), and recruited her own son, Steve, to join her for a stint in financial services.

Fort Worth National was later acquired by Texas American Bank. In 1989, the combined entity was bought by Team Bank, also known as Deposit Guarantee Bank of Dallas.

Team Bank was bought in 1992 by Bank One, which, eight years later, would appoint Jamie Dimon CEO. By 2004, Bank One was bought out in a $58 billion deal by JPMorgan, becoming a part of JPMorgan Chase.

By then, Bedford was already in her part-time role. But she said she plans to keep working.

"It's always been a very pleasant place to work," she said.