Share this article

print logo

Albion aims to fill void left by JPMorgan Center’s closing

JPMorgan Chase’s decision to close a call center with more than 400 jobs in the Village of Albion spells the end of a business operation that has survived ownership changes and some tough economic times since it was created in the late 1980s.

The center’s 413 employees work with customers who are in distress with their mortgages. But with the number of customers in those situations declining, JPMorgan Chase needs fewer employees to perform the work, said Melissa Shuffield, a company spokeswoman.

While that is a positive trend for the U.S. economy, it is leading to job losses at centers like the one in Albion, she said.

The center is due to close Sept. 3, and Shuffield estimated that a small number of employees, perhaps a dozen, will be relocated to other JPMorgan Chase operations to continue their current work. As for the rest of the affected employees, JPMorgan Chase has other job openings in Rochester, where it will work to place them, Shuffield said. And the company is working with government officials and other area employers to find positions for other employees, as well.

Albion Mayor Dean Theodorakos said if JPMorgan Chase’s decision to close cannot be reversed, he wants to look to the next step. “We’re hopeful the site and the workforce will be attractive to someone else if we can’t continue with JPMorgan Chase,” Theodorakos said.

The call center is the largest employer in the village, which has a population of about 6,000 and is about an hour’s drive from Buffalo. It is also one of the largest employers in Orleans County. “They’re huge, they’re very significant,” Theodorakos said.

The closing will be a setback to other village businesses, such as shops and restaurants, that employees patronize, he said, but he is hopeful other employers will absorb workers losing their jobs to lessen the blow.

Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, said he spoke Friday to Kevin Watters, chief executive officer of mortgage banking at JPMorgan Chase, about the impending closing. Collins said Watters told him JPMorgan Chase is having discussions with a company interested in a back-office operation. And Collins said his own office was contacted by another company with a similar interest. Neither company’s identity was disclosed.

Collins said he was “guardedly optimistic” about another employer filling the void by hiring displaced workers, but he cautioned that nothing was definite. “I don’t want to give anyone false hope – that wouldn’t be right,” he said. But Collins said the Albion center has the kind of trained, experienced workforce that should be appealing to an employer.

“We’ve got 90 days working with Empire State Development to make sure we get a company to step in and put most, if not all, of those workers back to work,” Collins said.

Over the years, the Albion center’s affiliation and function have changed, and its employment has fluctuated, but it has endured. Anchor Bancorp opened a mortgage processing center in 1987; Dime Bancorp merged with Anchor in 1995, a deal that led to more jobs at the center.

Washington Mutual acquired Dime Bancorp in 2001 and kept the center open, converting it to a customer service center. Washington Mutual was seized in September 2008 by federal regulators amid the financial crisis, and JPMorgan Chase acquired the company’s assets.

In November 2009, when the center had 800 employees, Sen. Charles E. Schumer said he had received a “firm commitment” from JPMorgan Chase to keep the center open for what he described as “the long term.”

But the industry has continued to change. In February, JPMorgan Chase announced plans to cut 15,000 jobs at its mortgage unit over the next two years.

The Albion center’s situation is reminiscent of Bank of America’s decision, disclosed earlier this year, to close its 1,200-job mortgage servicing center in the CrossPoint Business Park in Getzville. The bank said it was responding to a drop in the number of customers who needed help with delinquent mortgages.

Bank of America said M&T was taking over the building’s lease and would hire at least 600 of the workers, while Bank of America planned to keep another 100 of the employees at other locations.