See more of the story

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said during a visit to the Twin Cities Monday that he doesn't think the recent increase in COVID-19 cases from the delta variant will drag down the economy like the pandemic did last year.

"It's not going to derail the recovery," he said.

The CEO of the nation's largest bank, which has been rapidly expanding around the Twin Cities in the last two years, acknowledged that the variant is a "negative" and will unfortunately lead to higher COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

But the serious cases it is causing are mostly among the unvaccinated, he said.

"There's a lot of evidence that it will move quickly and then subside," he said.

He made the comments to reporters at JPMorgan Chase's community-focused branch that opened last year on Franklin Avenue in the Ventura Village neighborhood, just south of downtown Minneapolis.

Dimon is traveling to various markets across the country this week meeting with employees and clients. He also spoke Monday at an employee town hall meeting in Minneapolis and planned to meet with a couple dozen CEOs and other executives of area companies at a reception in the evening.

He was then headed to the Dakotas, where the bank recently opened a branch in Sioux Falls. It will open another one in Fargo on Tuesday, which will mean that the bank will hit the milestone of having a branch in each of the contiguous 48 states.

Chase opened its first branch in Minneapolis in 2019 as part of an expansion spurt to open 400 branches across the U.S., particularly in markets where it did not previously have a major retail presence. It has since opened 10 more branches in the Twin Cities region, with plans for several more in the works.

It expects to reach its goal of having 25 branches in this region within the next year and a half.

In a market dominated by Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, JPMorgan Chase still has a very low market share in the Twin Cities. Dimon said it's a long-term investment here, though, and may take some time for the bank to get to having a 5 or 10% share of the market.

"Look at the traffic in this branch," he said, offering it as evidence that the bank was gaining some traction.

Earlier, Dimon said it seemed like "rush hour" as he stood in the lobby and talked to employees while customers streamed in. He held the door open for some of them.

Hodan Ahmed, the manager of the branch, told Dimon that it is the busiest Chase branch in Minnesota.

Some banks accelerated branch closures during the pandemic, especially as consumers shifted more quickly to digital banking. But Dimon said that his company hasn't changed plans.

"The guests are coming in here," he said. "They want to talk to human beings."

Still, he acknowledged that branches are evolving. For one, they're smaller. And instead of being staffed mostly with tellers, they now have more loan officers and wealth-management staffers.

"In the old days, the branches had 12 people, and eight were tellers," he said. "But now they have like 10 people, and two are tellers."

In addition, JPMorgan has started opening what it calls community banks in low-income neighborhoods where there is a manager who does outreach and partners with local organizations. The branches also host workshops on things like home-buying and financial health.

The branch on Franklin Avenue was the second such community bank it opened. The first was in Harlem; others have opened since in cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas.

Last October, JPMorgan Chase also announced it would commit $30 billion over the next five years to advance racial equity in areas such as home ownership, affordable housing and small businesses. Dimon said the company is planning to release a report this October laying out how it's done so far.

"So far, almost every single part is at or exceeding expectations," he said.