Bank Watch

Bank of America to give lowest-paid employees a raise, Moynihan says

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan announced Tuesday the Charlotte-based company will raise wages for its lowest-paid workers to $15 an hour, the latest big bank to make such a move.

Moynihan briefly discussed the plan at an industry conference in New York but did not provide further details. Bank of America spokeswoman Ferris Morrison told the Observer the change, to take effect in early 2017, will increase the bank’s current minimum pay of $13.50.

The decision follows an announcement this summer by rival JPMorgan Chase & Co. In July, CEO Jamie Dimon said the New York-based company would increase minimum pay for 18,000 employees to between $12 and $16.50 an hour over the next three years depending on market and location factors.

Bank of America’s move also comes as the banking industry continues to face calls to boost wages for tellers and other lower-paid employees. Anastasia Christman, policy analyst for the National Employment Law Project, which has criticized banks for not paying frontline workers more, commended Bank of America’s step on Tuesday.

“$15 an hour, as any investment banker will tell you, is not going to make anyone rich,” Christman said. “But that is a decent wage and one that workers can start to take care of themselves and their families on.”

Morrison said the Bank of America decision reflects a progression at the bank “to ensure we’re paying all of our employees competitive wages.” She said the action is part of the bank’s “holistic” strategy to support its employees, such as an announcement earlier this year to expand paid leave for parents.

Morrison said she did not have a list of job types that would benefit from the higher pay, but noted it will apply to any employees in an hourly, non-commissioned roles. The majority of affected employees work in the bank’s consumer and global technology and operations jobs, she said.

Moynihan was awarded $16 million for his performance in 2015, up from $13 million from the year before. The pay package was the most he’s been awarded since becoming CEO in 2010.

Dimon, in an op-ed published in the New York Times, cited income inequality and wage stagnation in America in describing JPMorgan’s plans to increase its minimum salary from $10.15 an hour. Dimon, who called his company’s increase “the right thing to do,” said many employees who will receive the higher pay work as tellers and customer service representatives.

Dimon’s 2015 pay rose 35 percent to $27 million.

Wells Fargo spokeswoman Diana Rodriguez said the San Francisco-based bank’s wage floor remains at $12 per hour. The bank, which employs more than 23,000 in Charlotte, has previously said its floor has been at that level since March.

Pay at Wells Fargo for frontline positions in the U.S., like tellers or customer sales and service representatives, ranges from $12 to $16.50 an hour, depending on location and an employee’s level of experience, Rodriguez said. She noted that compensation levels for all Wells Fargo employees “significantly exceed” federal minimums.

“As we always do, we’ll continue to review and adjust our minimum pay levels to comply with laws and remain competitive,” she said.

Since 2009, the federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour. This year, as the labor market has tightened, some major U.S. companies have announced pay increases for some of their employees.

In March, retailer Costco said it will start paying at least $13 to $13.50 an hour, the first increase to its minimum wage in nine years. In July, Starbucks announced an increase in base pay of at least 5 percent for employees in company-operated stores.

The last time Bank of America raised its minimum pay was in 2015, Morrison said, though she did not immediately have the dollar figure prior to $13.50. Bank of America informed employees about the upcoming change to $15 “months ago,” she said, “so this is not something we recently decided.”

Bank of America employs about 15,000 workers in Charlotte. At the end of September, it reported having a total of 209,000 employees across the entire company.

Christman, of the National Employment Law Project, said more banks need to follow Bank of America’s and JPMorgan’s lead. She said her group has found pay for frontline bank workers varies widely but that about $12 an hour is common. According to a report her group released in 2015, hundreds of thousands of bank workers make less than living wages.

“I think most people don’t realize that the frequently women that they’re talking to about their credit card statement ... may after work go to a food bank or use food stamps to feed her own children,” Christman said.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts