It required us to roll out video conferencing globally to our employees in a span of a weekend, which is not for the faint of heart. When you think about the 200,000 employees that we have, we were able to roll this out at that pace, which speaks not just to the technical powers we have more broadly in the firm, but to how adaptable we are when these sorts of things occur . That was all because we wanted to make sure that our people could service our customers the best way that we could. Remember, we have people that work in our call centers, and they were impacted, and we have people that work in branches, and they’re impacted, etc.
One of the things that was really clear when the pandemic occurred was how quickly our teams could deploy new software. Many talk about being able to build quickly and being agile. There’s the Paycheck Protection Program, and this was the ability to offer small businesses that were not having as much traffic, etc., loans through the government. We had about a week to put this in place, and we were able to stand up that portal in about a week. We had it fully automated in a matter of two-ish weeks, and we were able to provide more funding than any other lender in both 2020 and 2021, which was just incredible. The fact that we were able to build that because of the technology we’ve invested in over the past years, build that so quickly and scale that to such a large volume for our customers was huge.
But we also were able to make some fundamental changes in mobile. We were able to enhance things which might seem simple. We have a product inside of our mobile application called QuickDeposit, and this is where you’re able to deposit a check. But as many know, sometimes checks are large numbers. Traditionally we asked people to go into branches to help prevent fraud. Because of the technology that we have, we were able to raise limits in a way that ensured that we were able to manage through fraud appropriately and allow customers that would have formerly had to come into a branch or ATM, make the deposits electronically. Those are the kinds of things that we’ve seen change, but the pace that we moved, that’s not just limited to the Chase part of the business, but we saw this across all of JP Morgan.
There’s one piece that I think is important on this Laurel. I was in a meeting and here I am a new person in the organization working on the Paycheck Protection Program. I recall there being somebody on Zoom. We were having a conversation and I assumed because I was new and they were in the meeting that they were on my team, and the person said, “Oh no, I’m not on your team, but I know you’re new and you needed assistance. And so here I am to help, and I just figured I’d navigate.” And that has stuck with me about the culture of this organization and how we focus on the customer both externally and internally, to really make sure that we are providing the best service that we possibly can.
Laurel: That certainly requires an agile mindset. So, how is JPMorgan Chase transforming into an agile organization? You’ve laid a couple examples. Clearly you would not have been able to respond to the US government’s Payroll Protection Act that quickly if you hadn’t been already working on a number of these opportunities and abilities to be more agile. So, what lessons have you learned along the way and how have your teams and customers benefited from this shift?
Gil: Oh, yes. An agile transformation is a really hard thing to do. Many people are making agile transformations, so it sounds like it should be easy. You have your scrums, and you have your various ceremonies and retrospectives, and you use a tool to manage your backlog and you’re golden. One of the big challenges that we as a company had faced in JPMorgan, was we were organized more around our software and platforms than around our customer and the experiences back. That made it really frustrating for teams because it meant that you likely needed 10, maybe 12 different organizations to agree on building something. It wasn’t clear who the owner was. The architectures sometimes would be a bit more fragile because you were working through multiple teams. If you want to move quickly or you want to innovate, that’s not a model in which you’re able to actually operate. You can force it, but it requires many more meetings. It’s difficult to know who the decision makers are. You can move more slowly and sometimes an application or a solution looks like many teams built it. There’s Conway’s Law, and you may have probably mentioned this before on other podcasts, but Dr. Conway said that your software will reflect how you’re organized. That’s really what we had seen. So, as opposed to us just trying to find a way to navigate around it, we said as an organization, “We’re truly going to become agile, and we’re going to accept Conway’s Law, and we’re going to organize around our products back.”
In the community and consumer bank, we organized around 100 products, so we have a thousand teams that are aligned around these products. A product, for example, is something like account opening. So, I want to open an account on mobile or web. There is one product for this. There is one product leader, one design leader, one data leader, and one technology leader that are accountable for that product. Now we know who can manage the backlog. Now we know who can work through any kind of architectural decisions. Now we understand who is accountable for ensuring that we have innovation and understanding that customer needs. That has allowed us to pivot quickly, because if I need to move, I can work with the account opening team, they can make the decisions, they can manage a backlog, and they’re able to adapt when we have things like the Paycheck Protection Program or other types of efforts that are out there. But it also gives more purpose to the individual teams because they set their destiny, they have more autonomy, and they’re working together between tech and product design and data, so we can build the right solutions that we need. This creates a great experience for people in the organization.
By the way, the whole of JPMC is moving to operate this way. This lets us not just move more quickly, it gives better work life balance for our employees and less frustration, because it’s easier to know where you are. You have that purpose and you accept being part of a particular team. I mentioned we can respond more quickly when there is a challenge, but it’s not just those challenges like PPP or a pandemic that we have to address, Laurel. There are places where our customer’s needs are changing every single day. And by organizing around products this way, we can understand the data from our customers, and we can experiment, and we can adapt in a truly agile fashion for what our customers really need, versus what we think they might need and building something that doesn’t ‘t really resonate with them. It allows us to operate in a truly agile fashion, which we were not able to do before and it’s quite incredible being able to make a change like this at such scale.
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