JPMorgan hiking pay for 18,000 tellers, other hourly workers

Last Updated Jul 13, 2016 12:24 PM EDT

The nation's biggest bank is raising wages for its lowest-paid workers, joining the ranks of companies including Walmart and Starbucks in looking to retain employees and stay ahead of efforts to hike the minimum wage.

The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour since 2009, but since early last year a handful of major American corporations including Walmart (WMT), Starbucks (SBUX), Target (TGT) McDonald's (MCD) and Costco Wholesale (COST) have announced pay hikes for at least some of their workers.

On Tuesday, Jamie Dimon, chairman and chief executive officer at JPMorgan Chase (JPM) said the bank would follow suit to address wage stagnation and income inequality.

"Wages for many Americans have gone nowhere for too long," Dimon noted in an editorial Tuesday in the New York Times, saying that would change for 18,000 tellers, customer service representatives and other JPMorgan workers.

The bank will hike its minimum pay to a range of $12 to $16.50 an hour, from its current minimum of $10.15 an hour, depending on market and location factors.

Dimon's announcement prompted a competitor to point out that it started paying a minimum of $12 earlier this year, albeit with less fanfare. "Wells Fargo's (WFC) minimum hourly rate has been at $12.00 since March of this year," a spokeswoman for the bank emailed.

The $12 minimum is now being paid to 50,000 entry-level employees including tellers and customer service representatives, Wells Fargo said.

Wells Fargo is based in California, the first state in the nation to say it would hike its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022.

In his op-ed piece, Dimon argued that beyond being the right thing to do, the pay hikes make sense for business: "It's good for our company, helping us attract and retain talented people in a competitive environment."

Beyond plans to fatten the paychecks of those at the bottom rungs of JPMorgan's corporate ladder, Dimon touted company-subsidized benefits including medical, paid vacation and a pension as giving employees on average about $11,000 a year above their existing wages.

JPMorgan will invest more than $200 million this year training entry-level employees in its consumer banking business, an effort that has helped more than 40 percent of the bank's tellers get promoted within five years. "We now have five very senior regional directors who worked as tellers," Dimon said.

The banking giant is also looking to help the five million young people neither working nor in school, along with those stuck in low-wage jobs without the skills to switch to better-paying careers by investing $325 million in career-oriented education programs.

JPMorgan paid Dimon $27 million in 2015, up from $20 million the year before. The bank increased profit last year 12 percent to $24.4 billion.