The financiers of household names such as U.S. Steel, General Electric, and AT&T, not to mention most of America's railroad network, J.P. Morgan is more than an investment bankóit's an American institution. The firm's founders, father Junius Spencer Morgan and son J. Pierpont, rose to fame as a powerful banking team in the second half of the 19th century. Working on both sides of the Atlantic, the Morgans were responsible for bringing from Europe to the U.S. the capital that was crucial to the nation's growth. After Junius died in 1890, J. Pierpont consolidated the family businesses as J.P. Morgan and Company and reigned as a symbol of Wall Street's power.


The fifth-largest financial advisor in the world, the company is currently organized into five business lines: finance and advisory services, market making activities, asset management and servicing, equity investments, and proprietary investing and trading. Over the years, J.P. Morgan has transformed itself from a commercial bank that dealt primarily in big business loans into a diversified firm that provides a wide variety of services to businesses and wealthy individuals. The firm has also focused on global development; more than half of its revenues now comes from outside the U.S and the firm is the leading merger-and-acquisitions firm in Latin America and the second-largest in Europe. The globalization of financial markets would seem to bode well in the long run for J.P. Morgan. However, the economic turmoil in Asia has badly hurt the bank, which saw its earnings tumble 35 percent in the fourth quarter of 1997 and 44 percent in the first quarter of 1998. In a retrenchment also brought on by alarmingly high spending, Morgan laid off 5 percent of its staff in 1998, and put an end to its much-loved free lunch.



-----------------------------------------------------------------------First-class people


J.P. Morganís mantra, bankers tell us, is "first-class people doing business in a first-class way." Translation: an emphasis on civility and teamwork, with a touch of old-school elitism and bureaucracy. One analyst in the firmís equity research department describes the firm as "very corporate" and "white collar." Another insider comments on the firmís "notably high ethical standards." Says another insider, in the firms fixed-income department: "Itís somewhat conservative, extremely politically correct, and very elite." However, one associate says this reputation is overstated: "Itís professional, but not as haughty as is sometimes thought."


Insiders agree that J.P. Morgan is "on the friendly end of the Wall Street spectrum." Thereís "very little petty office politics." Comments an associate in investment banking: "Itís generally very inclusive and team-oriented. Thereís not much backstabbing. Managing directors and vice presidents are concerned about developing junior people."


But in this imperfect world, even Morganís emphasis on teamwork is considered an outmoded drawback by some. Says one analyst: "The team environment sometimes leads to failure to recognize those working harder or on more advanced assignments." An associate in investment management agrees: "The consensus-driven approach makes accountability and contrarian thinking difficult to achieve." Says one I-banking analyst: "[J.P. Morgan] is friendly and cooperative, but it can become too entrenched in its own history at times and not aggressive enough." And, says one associate in sales: "The only think that really bugs me is that we tend to keep weak people circulating in-house rather than aggressively firing those not up to par."


-----------------------------------------------------------------------Excellent treatment by supervisors


While the emphasis on teamwork at Morgan may have its drawbacks, insiders say it leads to excellent treatment by supervisors and a focus on the development of junior employees. While long-time employees say that newcomers "earn respect as they gain experience," they also say that "most older employees are willing to mentor new arrivals." "They treat me with respect at all times," says one I-banking analyst. "Iím constantly challenged to take on more work and responsibilities." Says another I-banking analyst: "Morganís supervisors will treat you based on maturity and ability Ė not by tenure. Iíve always felt essential to the team. Sums up one analyst-turned associate: "The Ďteamworkí pitch the recruiters gave is very true here Ė it seems like everyone has a vested interest in your development."



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