If you’re an hourly employee of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM), then congratulations; you’re about to get a raise. And, regardless of how you feel about him as president, the company itself acknowledged that it was Donald Trump’s tax cuts that prompted the move. But it also is a reason to take another look at JPM stock.
A reason to buy JPM stock? Many would say no. Not only does spending more on payroll crimp the very profit margins the new tax code was meant to improve, companies are supposed to invest in growth; that’s what companies do.
This is a case, however, where the organization in question has a remarkably clear plan in place, almost as if it was waiting in the wings for this day to arrive. The confidence is intoxicating, and does make JPM stock a standout within the financial sector.
The JPM Stock Plan
The investment, which will ultimately cost an extra $20 billion over the course of the coming five years, is a five-pronged plan. The core components are wage increases for hourly employees, new branches, more lending to small businesses and underserved low-income communities, and more philanthropic giving.
The intention would almost read more like a slogan or motto (a non-binding one at that) where the basic tenets of the plan not also followed up by details.
Case in point? JPMorgan explicitly told hourly employees in New York City, Boston, San Francisco and Jersey City that their pay rate would be upped to $18.00 (presumably at a minimum). The bank went on to say that workers earning less than $60,000 per year would see their medical plan deductibles decline by $750 this year.
These aren’t ideas JPMorgan Chase & Co. would float without plans to follow through.
Also in the works are 400 new branches, creating roughly 3,000 new jobs. The new-and-improved branch network will also see 500 new bankers hires explicitly for the purpose of making more small business loans.
An extra 500 home-lending advisors will help the company reach its goal of growing its home loan portfolio within the low/moderate income market by 25%.
Finally, the bank simply plans on giving away $1.75 billion over the course of the next five years to several areas and causes in dire need, including Detroit’s ongoing economic recovery and to entrepreneurs of color. That’s 40% more than it gave over the prior five years.
These Investments Pay Off
Worth it? There’s no denying there’s great PR value to the initiative. There’s more to the matter to investors in JPM stock than just the publicity value of the commitment though.
Take the higher paychecks its lower-paid workers will be enjoying soon, for instance, and cross reference that with something that recently surprised Wal-Mart Stores Inc (NYSE:WMT).
In 2015 it began a series of pay increases for hourly workers. The initial concern was higher payroll costs, and that sliver of its expenses did indeed rise.
What also grew, however, was the engagement of its employees who no longer felt the company viewed them as a cost to keep to an absolute minimum. The end result was cleaner stores and friendlier, faster service.
As for the philanthropic piece of the plan, there’s not a whit of empirical evidence that generosity coincides with returns.
There’s a curious amount of anecdotal and coincidental evidence though, evidence like the fact that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) were among the very top charitable corporate givers last year, and both stocks handily outperformed the broad market’s 20% gain in 2017.
FB stock gained 53% last year, while MSFT stock was up 37%.
And more small business and lower-income home lending? That’s just good business too, particularly in front of strong economic growth. A robust economy not only improves the fiscal strength of individuals, it allows small business to become bigger businesses that end up with bigger lending needs down the road.
Bottom Line for JPM Stock
It’s still not a reason in and of itself to own JPM stock when there was no interest in owning it prior to the announcement of the $20 billion investment in a better future.
But, for investors that may have been on the fence or for investors that were struggling to find the right financial stock to play, this initiative is a worthy one for multiple reasons.
Predictable and cliche? Yes, but worthy all the same.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can follow him on Twitter, at @jbrumley.