JPMorgan Chase: Bank is still watching its costs

JPMorgan Chase is still minding its pocketbook.

The bank’s CEO of consumer and community banking, Gordon Smith, told CNBC’s “Worldwide Exchange” that the bank is working on cutting costs from its structure.

Gordon Smith

Eduardo Munoz | Reuters
Gordon Smith

“We started about two years ago, we set ourselves the target to take out $2 billion” in costs, including structure expenses and eliminating waste, Smith said in the interview, which aired Wednesday.

It does not entail cutting spending on technology and mobile applications — one area in which JPMorgan Chase has boosted staffing over the last few quarters.

The bank recently announced that it will give pay raises to some of its lowest-ranking workers, something that may challenge its cost-cutting initiative. But every Wall Street bank is confronting the reality of needing to cut costs, at a time when some can’t find many more jobs to cut.

Keeping pace with JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s comments to CNBC earlier in the week, Smith said he believes the U.S. consumer economy is improving, fueled by factors including rising home values and stronger job growth.

“I’m just much more optimistic about the economy than some of the rhetoric you hear,” Smith said. “If we go back to the first half of last year, we see a very steady, gradual improvement with the consumer.”

Like Dimon, Smith acknowledges a need for a Federal Reserve interest rate hike. But, unlike so many Wall Street prognosticators, Smith appears to have thrown in the towel when it comes to marking his calendar.

“We can’t impact rates,” Smith said. “And almost everyone who tries to predict where rates are going has been wrong over the last number of years.”

— CNBC’s Wilfred Frost contributed to this report.

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