It's only a couple of years old, but at JPMorgan Chase's office at Five Manhattan West the walls have already been defaced. And it's not just the walls. Chairs and other surfaces have been scribbled all over as well.
At the headquarters for JPMorgan's digital ambitions, this is all by design — writable surfaces are part of the effort to foment the collaboration, serendipity, and free-form thinking that run amok at Silicon Valley's most agile workplaces.
JPMorgan developers and designers have embraced the wall-and-furniture-as-medium ethos. So much so that, after some early misunderstandings — not every white surface can be written on, it turns out — helpful signage has been added to guide spontaneous bursts of code, formulas, and workflow mapping to areas that can more readily be cleaned up, when necessary.
It's a stark contrast from other big bank offices that Business Insider has visited in Manhattan, where writing is typically confined to paper or whiteboard, and the overall vibe errs on the side of rarefied stuffiness. Being at front and center of the financial universe tends to come with a drabness and solemnity that telegraphs focus and regard for the important work at hand.
Not so at Chase's tech hub, which with its bright, colorful walls, modern floor plan, and dedicated space for table tennis, billiards, and foosball, makes you question whether you're actually in a bank at all.
Nonetheless, it's ground zero for some of the most vital work underway at America's largest bank. The firm, which recently told Business Insider it has a $10.8 billion tech budget and 50,000 technologists on its payroll, courts comparisons to Amazon and has gone all in on a bet that a "Digital Everywhere" strategy will help win the future of banking.
"Digital capabilities will really differentiate players in our industry in the coming years. And in a digital world, we are always open for our customers, continuously, 24/7," CFO Marianne Lake said during the company's investor day presentation in February.
Whether it's opening and maintaining an API store, mining internal data and analytics, implementing updates to Venmo rival QuickPay with Zelle, or building Finn, an all digital bank that's being trialed in St. Louis, Five Manhattan West is home base to some of the bank's most innovative new features.
And as banks increasingly compete for the same talent as the Google, Amazon, Facebook and other tech giants, the lively tech hub and its casual ambiance also serves as a recruiting tool for young talent that may instinctively view the "Midtown Uniform" with suspicion.
"This is the mothership," Jason Alexander, head of digital platforms at Chase, told us on a recent tour of the office space.
Take a look inside the headquarters for JPMorgan Chase's $10.8 billion digital tech blitz.
Chase has other tech offices around the country — in Columbus, Ohio; Plano, Texas; and Wilmington, Delaware; for example — but Manhattan is the mothership, as Jason Alexander puts it.
JPMorgan Intelligent Solutions (JPMIS) — a separate, big data and data science division focused on mining and leveraging its massive cache of proprietary data — also shares this space, though they're a much smaller proportion of the more than 800 JPMorgan employees at the tech hub.
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