JPMorgan reported record 2019 first quarter profits on Friday. "But J.P. Morgan's results showed that it still benefited from the Fed's last move to hike its benchmark rate in December, the fourth time it raised rates last year," says CNBC. "That was most clear in the bank's consumer lending division, one of the two biggest segments for the company. Profit rose 19 percent to $3.96 billion as revenue climbed 9 percent to $13.8 billion. The division grew the profit margin on deposits and grew loans across credit card and auto units. Meanwhile, the provision for credit losses stayed flat from a year earlier at $1.3 billion."
Let's talk automation and work for a moment, because there's something that doesn't entirely add up in this brave new world where automation will apparently sit alongside highly-skilled human workers doing robot-length shifts. JPMorgan is an enormous spender on technology, and has been blunt about automation and the future of work. At last week's Congressional appearance, JPMorgan boss Jamie Dimon was rattled by questioning from congresswoman Katie Porter, who challenged Dimon about the earnings of an entry-level JPMorgan bank worker. Dimon promised to investigate and barked back when challenged by the New York Times, asking what it paid as minimum wage. The federal minimum wage in the US is $7.25 an hour. Bank of America had just announced a rise in its minimum wage to $20 an hour. Amazon, rarely seen as a beacon of employee goodness, pays $15 an hour. "Today I challenge our top retail competitors (you know who you are!) to match our employee benefits and our $15 minimum wage," Jeff Bezos wrote last week. Dan Bartlett of Walmart answered: "Hey retail competitors out there (you know who you are ) how about paying your taxes?"
Why is this significant? The United States of America is headed to the left, and has been for some years — Donald Trump's victory notwithstanding — even if its democratic socialists would sit comfortably in the centre of European politics. JPMorgan is an American behemoth, but even its money market can't touch its biggest global challenger Ant Financial. Right on cue Ant Financial founder Jack Ma waded into the debate on workers' conditions. The story comes from a forum on Github which invited Chinese tech workers to post their experiences with what's dubbed the 996 culture, where employees at Huawei and Ant Financial are encouraged to go beyond the mandatory 40-hour work week and do 9am to 9pm six days a week. "The 996 schedule — which means working 9am to 9pm, six days a week — is 'a huge blessing that many companies and employees do not have the opportunity to have' Ma said in an internal event on Thursday, according to a transcript published on Alibaba's official WeChat account," reports SMCP.com, an Alibaba-owned newspaper. "Ma defended 996, saying such a schedule has helped Chinese tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent grow to become what they are today, drawing on his own experience of working long hours in the industry. He went on to call on his employees to dedicate themselves to the work ethic. 'If you join Alibaba, you should get ready to work 12 hours a day, otherwise why do you come to Alibaba? We do not need those who comfortably work 8 hours,' he said." Ironically, this all started in Silicon Valley, with its lab rats culture of "free food" and sleeping pods. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
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