In today’s ever-evolving banking industry, a 150-year anniversary is no small feat. Launched in 1863 as The First National Bank of Chicago “First Chicago” (when Abraham Lincoln signed its banking charter) to its evolution today as JPMorgan Chase, one of the oldest and largest banks in Chicago, its commitment to remaining a local bank with a singular focus on providing outstanding customer service is what has allowed it to not only survive, but thrive in the Windy City.
First Chicago established a legacy of giving back to the community that has endured through heritage bank name changes to today’s dynamic JPMorgan Chase. “If anything, our mergers have made us stronger,” says Civic Affairs Director and Senior Vice President Francia Harrington. “Our culture is our foundation, where a sense of integrity, accountability and transparency builds loyalty.”
And while the Chase name had its original roots in New York, it has become synonymous with investment in housing, jobs and schools for Chicago. For Managing Director and Regional Head for Government, Not-for-Profit and Healthcare clients, Elizabeth Hartigan Connelly, maintaining that dedication to community and impactful public-private partnerships is a rich tradition stretching from Retired Chairman Richard L. Thomas all the way to current Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon. “After coming to Chicago and learning about the civic culture, Jamie often remarks that collaboration in Chicago is admirable and unique,” explains Ms. Connelly. “Public-private partnerships work better here than in any other city in the country. People working together have helped the city navigate challenges, create growth opportunities, and keep us all moving toward a bright future.”
Supporting the communities in which bank employees live and do business has been at the core of Chase and its predecessors. Some of the milestones recognized as part of the 150th Anniversary Celebrations include establishing the Women’s Banking Department in 1882 to serve women in the male-dominated world of finance. Back in the 1800’s, the bank provided financing for the new Art Institute building at Michigan Avenue and Van Buren and in 2005, was the Founding Corporate Sponsor of the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago. Chase felt so strongly about including the Chicago community as part of its 150th anniversary celebration that it’s sponsoring the Art Institute’s Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity exhibit and the Goodman Theater’s production of The Jungle Book.
Civic leadership is a long-standing value within the company’s culture that can be attributed to a long history of influential and inspiring mentors. “Our alumni who began their careers at First Chicago often remark that they learned the importance of community, service and leadership through impressive role models serving in key civic roles,” shares Ms. Harrington. “Still today within our culture, our colleagues are willing to make the commitment and find the time to support their communities through volunteerism and leadership.”
Putting community first and staying local is just one of the ways the bank continues to stand strong through decades of change and challenge. Even though it’s a global institution, neighborhood branches are a major component of its success, as Chase keeps the bank connected to its customers. In 2013, Chase earned a No. 1 ranking for customer service in Illinois and Wisconsin from J.D. Power and Associates.
“When you walk into your neighborhood branch your favorite teller will greet you warmly and serve you professionally,” observes Ms. Harrington. “We’re first and foremost a local bank, and our customers are at the core of everything we do.”
Ms. Harrington and Ms. Connelly, who’ve been with Chase for over 50 combined years, remain dedicated to paying it forward and acting as role models and mentors to those who come up through the ranks behind them. They believe that instilling in others what they learned is just one of the many reasons Chase has a long future ahead of it.
“Building relationships with clients and continuing to invest in technology – because that’s what our customers want – is why we’re still here 150 years later and why we’ll be here another 150 years,” shares Ms. Connelly. “It’s about being excellent yesterday and excelling tomorrow.”