When JPMorgan Chase & Co. cut the ribbon on its One Paseo office in December 2021, it was more than just a way to bring the firm’s Middle Market and Private Bank teams together into one upgraded, modern office with a welcoming layout with room to grow. It was all of that, but it was also the culmination of a years-long plan to underscore the team’s commitment to the San Diego region.
“This is a statement of intent that we are here in San Diego, not just for this year, but for the long-term,” said Bambos Charalambous, managing director, market team lead of the San Diego branch of J.P. Morgan Private Bank, JPMorgan Chase’s wealth management arm for clients with assets over $5 million.
Charalambous, a native of England, has been with JPMorgan for 19 years and has been front row to the firm’s growth in the San Diego region. In 2007, he touched down in California to help the bank build its presence in the Southern half of the state with a goal of opening a wealth management office in San Diego.
“But then the global financial crisis happened, and it was a tough time for everybody, so finding office space and hiring people was not a priority all of a sudden,” he said, adding that for five years the firm previously had him covering the San Diego market from an office in Los Angeles.
“Doing this work, you can’t be in a different city,” he said. “You have to be where your clients live, where they take their kids to school, build their companies and participate in their communities. You have to be part of the fabric – their fabric.”
Fast forward to 2012, after the height of the crisis and JPMorgan Chase’s acquisition of local Washington Mutual branches, and the effort to set down roots in San Diego was “supercharged,” according to Charalambous.
“We now have just about 90 retail branches. We have business banking, which is the group that covers corporates with less than $25 million in annual revenue. We have a middle market team. We have commercial real estate lenders, auto financing – the rest of the firm was here,” Charalambous said. “And the Private Bank, the wealth management business, just needed to fit in and do what this firm does best, which is deliver the whole firm to the local community.”
Under One Roof
Aaron Ryan, San Diego region manager of middle market banking at JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking, came to the bank in 2018 after working for nearly 20 years at Wells Fargo in Orange County. Ryan said he was attracted to JPMorgan Chase for the vision the firm had “in bringing global resources to the middle market” and, as a native San Diegan, its commitment to invest in the region.
After Ryan’s joining, the vision of One Paseo was soon born – an office that would bring the middle market and wealth management arms of the firm together under one roof. Both lines of business came together to take a “thoughtful approach” to creating an office that was representative to the community, central to clients, and gave the firm “an opportunity to build a space that brought the teams together, allowed clients easy access to us, and us easy access to them,” Ryan said. “We like to say we’re planting roots here in San Diego, that this was a long-term investment, and we wanted to make sure that was seen and felt by, not just our employees, but our customers as well.”
A Welcoming Design
The vision for the new office was put in motion in 2019, first starting with identifying a location.
“There were a lot of good options, but One Paseo was a new project with energy and attention. A big factor was central location and good access,” Ryan said. “It was a chance to give financial services a different view. While downtown was a good space for us, being in One Paseo feels to me a lot more accessible from all corners of San Diego. It offers a number of friendly attractions and amenities, like shops, restaurants and even mixed-used living spaces. Having this space helps us retain and attract the best talent.”
The friendly feel is evident in the design of the space, which includes comfortable, home-style furnishings like the wood boardroom table and chairs and art from JPMorgan’s collection curated to represent Southern California with hand-carved skateboards, pictures of surfing and local scenes.
“A big part of coming to the San Diego market was having the community get to know us and dispel a bit of that myth of a big investment bank,” Ryan said. “We understand the culture, we’re here, we’re part of the community, we’re part of the San Diego family. JPMorgan is also committed to hiring local talent whenever possible. I know the firm saw my local roots as a positive when I was hired here. We want the best local talent.”
Charalambous said JPMorgan had a “philosophy and a view” in what it wanted to accomplish with the design of the office and its open layout, multiple meeting spaces, and large event spaces.
“We want our employees and clients to feel at home here, and we want our client rooms full. When we do an event in San Diego, people come in-person. I think that is not as common in other cities,” he said, adding that One Paseo has already hosted multiple events drawing between 60 and 100 people. “We want all of the JPMorgan Chase thousand-plus employees that serve our San Diego based clients every day to view this as their home.”
In May of 2019, the Private Bank team was comprised of a handful of employees, while the middle market team had nine. Today, the two teams have a combined total of 70 employees.
“Our employee base has grown. Our client base has doubled year over year over the last three years – and all though a pandemic,” Ryan said, adding that JPMorgan’s approach of specializing in key San Diego industries like life sciences, government, healthcare, tech and disruptive commerce helped fuel the growth of the middle market business.
Another part of that growth is due to the advantages of building both teams together under one roof, which fosters “trust and camaraderie” with clients and employees, Charalambous said. He went on to add that the shared space also allows the firm to track co-clients and referrals, “not from a metrics or incentives standpoint, but to make sure we are collaborating and working together. You can’t go anywhere in the world and not be able to use our services, so each one of us goes into every meeting – not delivering only wealth management, or middle market – but delivering the whole firm, and I think that’s extremely powerful.”
Charalambous further explained that a company founder, or a top executive from a growing San Diego company, who comes to bank with the middle market team and finds success in growing his or her company is also growing his or her own personal wealth.
“There’s a real synergy between the way we can serve businesses and their leaders,” he said. “That is when J.P. Morgan Private Bank can step in to help you manage and grow your wealth and take care of needs like financing a mortgage for a larger home, setting up trusts for a family, or factoring in the next stage of your journey.”
Giving Back Locally
In addition to delivering the whole firm for its clients, the One Paseo office also strives to do that for the community through its Market Leadership Team (MLT). In most major markets where JPMorgan Chase does business, it has a local leadership team, the MLT, where it brings together the market’s senior leaders from all of its business divisions to deliver the firm as a united team to the local community. .
“Our Market Leadership Team is really where JPMorgan Chase, with one voice, comes and engages the San Diego community,” said Charalambous, who co-chairs the MLT with Ryan. “As part of this group, we ask ourselves: where can we make meaningful contributions, and sometimes philanthropic investments, in San Diego? How do we want to grow our business? How do we want to connect with our employees? And how do we want to connect more closely with our community?”
One of the ways the MLT structure engages with their local communities is though the philanthropic lens.
The MLT works closely with JPMorgan Chase’s charitable Foundation, which is responsible for the firm’s philanthropic giving in the community. Two of the Foundation’s biggest philanthropic priorities in San Diego have been supporting nonprofits that uplift underserved and diverse small businesses, as well as job training and skill building programs that support and advance low- and moderate-income (LMI), vulnerable, and displaced workers to quality jobs and improved earnings.
“Examples of our work supporting small businesses include a partnership with the Chicano Federation of San Diego County, which provides low-income women with the tools, knowledge, and resources to create and formally incorporate their own home-based childcare business,” Ryan said.
The firm also partners with Accessity (formerly Accion serving Southern California), a non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that supports the financial stability and resilience of underserved and diverse small businesses in Southern California by increasing access to technical assistance and responsible, low-cost capital.
“We are conscious about the fact there are a lot of important things from a philanthropic perspective that we need to do in the community and are very thoughtful around how we contribute to make sure we hit where we think are some of the more meaningful areas,” Charalambous said. He added that jobs and skills is one such area where the firm has made contributions. This has included its relationships with the San Diego Workforce Partnership where both organizations have developed an initiative to support career pathways for underserved communities with living-wage jobs in the healthcare industry.
The MLT also strives to engage with the charities it supports beyond providing finances.
One such example is the Honor Foundation which helps former Special Forces veterans get back to civilian life, develop skills and connect with employers. The foundation was recommended by a member in the middle market team as part of an objective to amplify passions the firm’s employees have around charitable causes that are important to them.
“Bambos and I talked about how we could make an impact here, how we can bring the full firm together,” Ryan said. Beyond financial contributions, the One Paseo office participated in the foundation’s “story nights” and other in-person events.
“It’s amazing to hear the stories of these veterans, the lives that they’ve lived and what they want to do now in post-military life,” Ryan added.
The One Paseo office also recently helped host another event for the Honor Foundation – a premier of “Top Gun II” at THE LOT movie theater in La Jolla. The veterans were guests of honor and shared their stories with JPMorgan clients, which facilitated “those strategic introductions that can lead to future financial contributions for the foundation or careers and jobs,” Ryan said, describing the MLT event as having “connected the dots to make the impact greater.”
“Writing a check feels good for the moment and that’s it,” Charalambous said. “But when you get to know the people and what they do and why they do it and get to know them as friends, it’s a very different story. In my job in wealth in wealth management, I feel like engaging in people’s passions and philanthropy is a privilege of our role. Fortunately, we have some of the most generous and thoughtful clients on the planet. We invite the community to join us on this journey.”