Impact of COVID-19 on Digital Channel Consumption

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Part
01

Changing Social Climate: Financial Services

Detailed below are the ways that Bank of America, Citi, and J.P. Morgan have adapted to the changing social climate due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Bank of America

  • Last March 5, when North Carolina announced the first positive case of COVID-19 in the state, Bank of America announced its different measures for the prevention of the spread of coronavirus. Some of these measures include limiting international travel, deep cleanings at its offices, and directing employees who have been potentially exposed to the virus to work from home.
  • Bank of America says that it has "closely followed developments related to the coronavirus" and is focused on "delivering for clients while supporting the health and well-being" of their colleagues and all those they serve.
  • Also, Bank of America's content messaging now includes an offer of support to their consumers and small business clients through their Client Assistance Program.
  • Last March 23, the bank announced that its customers can defer mortgage payments during this financial crisis. Customers are allowed to defer payments for three months. This is one of the measures they implemented for the purpose of easing their customers' financial burden.
  • The company has also increased spending as it pledged a $100 million financial support for COVID-19 response efforts. These funds will be "used to increase medical response capacity, address food insecurity, and boost access to learning during school closures in local BofA markets, with a focus on the most vulnerable populations."

Citi

  • Citi's message on its official site says that their top priority is the well-being of their colleagues, customers, and communities. Citi also offers assistance to those who are impacted by COVID-19. For instance, their retail bank customers and small business customers are offered waived monthly service fees as well as "waived penalties for early CD withdrawals." Eligible credit card customers are also offered collection forbearance programs.
  • Last March 6, Citi announced that it has taken several preventive measures for the protection of their colleagues and customers. These measures include ensuring that hand sanitizers are readily available in branches as well as "educating branch teams on best practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)." While on March 15, the bank announced that it has suspended stock repurchases because of the pandemic.
  • Citi's spending increased as the company announced on March 19 that "it will provide $15 million to support COVID-19 related relief activities globally." This $15 million will be divided equally to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, No Kid Hungry Fund ("to support emergency Food Distribution Programs in the US") and to "additional international, country-specific efforts in places that are severely impacted."
  • Also, last March 26, Citi temporarily closed 15% of its outlets or around 700 branches to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

J.P. Morgan

  • J.P. Morgan has given a wave of support to small businesses that are struggling because of the pandemic. Last March 18, "the company announced a $50 million aid package to help communities recover from the outbreak." From this, "$8 million will go immediately to helping small businesses in the U.S., China, and Europe."
  • Also, over $5 million was allocated as immediate support with a big portion that went directly to the World Health Organization for the provision of masks and other protective gear to the front line nurses and doctors. The $50 million aid package reflects the increased spending of the company brought about by the pandemic since this is on top of their regular spending.
  • Also, last March 20, JP Morgan announced that it's "giving bank tellers and other front-line employees a one-time bonus of up to $1,000 to help cushion the difficulties of working during the coronavirus pandemic." Aside from that, it also gave all its employees "up to five extra paid leave days and extended the carryover period of unused vacation days from last year."
  • JP Morgan's current messaging includes the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act or the CARES Act. This CARES Act "contains several provisions to provide emergency assistance for Small Businesses affected by the pandemic." It also includes the "payment deferral and loan forgiveness program."
  • Last February 27, the company's analyst Gary Taylor said that JP Morgan is extraordinarily skeptical that COVID-19 will prove to be a cause of global financial concern. He even said that "it would likely be a one-time impact that would not impair forward earnings power."
  • On March 30, JP Morgan gave suggestions on "how to invest in banking stocks amid the global crisis." The bank said that those who are having difficulty in "selecting banking stocks should look at the ones with a combination of deep funding, high provision coverage, limited issues in asset quality, and strong capital ratios."
Part
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Part
02

Changes in Social Media Consumption

Social media usage has increased steadily in recent years, but the trend has significantly trended upward since COVID-19. Additionally, the reasons people are using social media have changed as a result of the pandemic.

Pre-COVID 19 Statistics

  • In January 2020, there were 3.8 billion active social media users worldwide, up 9.2% from January 2019. In the USA, there were 230 million active social media users, up 3.1% from April 2019. The highest percentage of social media users fall in the age range of 25-34.
  • Hootsuite's 2020 Digital Report indicated that in January 2020, the most popular social media platforms in the USA by usage statistics were YouTube (79%), Facebook (74%), Facebook Messenger (55%), Instagram (52%), Pinterest (35%), Snapchat (30%), and LinkedIn (27%).
  • Global WebIndex's 2020 Flagship Report indicated that before the COVID-19 pandemic, top reasons for social media usage included "finding funny or entertaining content," "general networking with other people," "fill up spare time," "research/find products to buy," and "stay up-to-date with news and current events."

Impact of COVID-19

  • A Nielson article indicated that digital content usage could surge by 60% as a result of COVID-19. The pandemic is resulting in behavioral shifts, such as looking for support and reassurance, increased social interaction, community engagement, and participation in social events that were traditionally held in person. Additionally, users are locating information about COVID-19 through Twitter and other social media channels.
  • A Nielson article stated that at the peak of social conversations that included either "coronavirus" or "COVID-19," 110,000 TV-related tweets mentioned these two keywords. Key disadvantages of this growth are disinformation/fake news and the spread of fear and panic.
  • StatCounter shows changes in usage statistics for the following platforms:
  • Facebook (42%-Jan, 43%-Feb, 42%-Mar)
  • Twitter (23%-Jan, 24%-Feb, 25%-March)
  • Instagram (10%-Jan, 11%-Feb, 13%Mar)
  • YouTube (1%-Jan, 1%-Feb, 1%-Mar).
  • Additionally, TechCrunch indicated that in the period between March 14 and March 24, Facebook and Instagram showed an increase of 40%+.
  • The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a surge in the usage of Facebook features among millions of Americans, with messaging and video calls rising to record levels and a rise in traffic for publishers of virus-related news. Over the past month, publishers who don't specialize in virus-related news have had the most significant drops in traffic. For example, Mashable's Facebook traffic plummeted by 72% while BET and Sports Illustrated lost more than 50% of their Facebook traffic.
  • Obvious.ly tracked user behavior on Instagram through an analysis of 260 of its campaigns, including more than 7.5 million Instagram posts. Over the first two weeks of March, these posts saw a 76% rise in "daily accumulated likes on #ad posts." The company's Q1 Instagram campaign impressions also rose by 22% compared to Q4.
  • Driven primarily by conversations around COVID-19 as well as continuing product enhancements, Twitter's total monetizable daily active users surged 23% to 164 million quarter-to-date as of March 23.

Research Strategy

We searched through data sites such as StatCounter and Nielsen to locate statistics for each requested platform. From there, we compared the percentages from January through March to identify trends. We then reviewed multiple articles discussing the trends in social media usage as it relates to COVID-19. Recent statistics were readily available for Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. We were unable to locate a valid source of data for Snapchat or LinkedIn.

Part
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Part
03

Changes in Subscription-based Streaming Channels Consumption

Subscription-based streaming has seen an uptick since the COVID-19 outbreak. This change is more than likely due to the many shelter-in-place orders given across the country. Services such as Netflix and Disney+ are streamed 20% more. Music streaming services like Spotify have seen an increase of 18% during the quarantine. Live-streaming has also seen an increase in both content and viewership.

Changes in Subscription-based Streaming Consumption

  • In the United States, the consumption of TV streaming services has increased by 20%.
  • Consumption of music streaming services has increased by 18% in the U.S.
  • Interestingly, in the beginning of March, BuzzAngle, Alpha Data and Spotify reported decreases in streaming, as the most popular songs were streamed far less because of the quarantine measure in Italy and the US. The traffic has, since then, increased considerably.
  • Streaming subscriptions for companies like Disney+ has increased by 12% since the outbreak.
  • Live-streaming has also seen an increase due to the quarantine. Twitch has seen an increase of 10% in viewership as of March 10th. YouTube Gaming has seen an increase of 15%.
  • In fact, the amount of shows / films consumption on streaming services like Netflix has increased by 42% since the beginning of March in the US.
  • There has also been an increase in the consumption of live streaming events. US citizens have increased the time spent on watching live streams of music concerts, live streams of sports events, and live streams of theater shows by 34%, 34%, and 28%.
  • Celebrities also have been using Instagram Live to give impromptu concerts from their homes. Some examples include stars such as Coldplay’s Chris Martin, John Legend, U2’s Bono, Yungblud and Christine & The Queens.
  • According to Statista, about 30% of millennials said they would increase their streaming due to COVID-19. This is followed by Gen X with 27%, Gen Z with 25%, and Boomers with 15%.
  • Consumers are streaming more because they are looking to pass time during the quarantine.
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Part
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Changes in Hulu Consumption

Changes to consumption and interactions with Hulu, the online TV and movie streaming service, due to the global pandemic of COVID-19 include the company introducing a linked service with ABC News to keep their customers informed. There are a number of claims of increased usage of the type of service that Hulu offers due to more people being at home, although specific data relating to Hulu's services was not found. The data available for Hulu gives figures for 2019 and prior to that. It was not possible to find data showing current figures that took account of any changes since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Hulu

  • Hulu offers streaming services of live TV, a video on demand service and a streaming service which has adverts. They advertise on their website as having 'no hidden costs, equipment hire or installation appointments'.
  • Their services include Disney +, ESPN + and their own produced programs.
  • They are controlled by Disney and considered to be Netflix's key competitor.

New ABC News service

  • As a direct response to COVID-19 on 3/20/20 Hulu added access to ABC News for their subscribers. This applies to ad-supported and plans without adverts. They did this because their customers are much more likely to have stopped using mainstream TV services and therefore may not have access to the current news and information about the pandemic.
  • Hulu has noted that more than 45% of their customers has never had or has chosen not to continue using live TV services. This could prevent them from accessing live news coverage about the current pandemic situation.
  • The above service allows users to stream ABC News from any device and at any time of the day to allow them to stay informed.
  • The company's live TV subscriber numbers are around 3.2 million and they already have access to a number of news channels. However, their on-demand subscriber numbers are much larger at 27.2 million. Although too early to tell, the addition of the ABC News service by Hulu may lead to more of their on-demand subscribers using their service to access news and current affairs information specifically about the COVID-19 virus and the state and federal responses.

Increased usage by existing subscribers and potential new ones

  • Based on previous reviews which looked at of the impact of COVID-19 and social distancing measures in other countries there was likely to be an increase in usage of streaming services as more people are stuck at home potentially with time on their hands as they cannot work. Hulu may notice increased usage by their existing subscribers or attract new ones.
  • Existing subscribers may choose to increase the package they have with Hulu because of the extra time being spent at home and new subscribers may choose to use Hulu to fill their time.
  • Research completed by Nielson during previous events which impact a large portion of the country found that usage of TV and video streaming services can increase by potentially up to 60%.
  • In December 2019 Hulu introduced it's 'binge advertising'. This used subscriber information to determine when they might watch three or more episodes of a series, which is considered binge watching. Their viewers are given specific messages within the adverts for everyday items, like washing powder, to encourage them to watch more episodes. As noted above, it is likely their subscribers have more time so may take to binge watching during the quarantine period.
  • Hulu subscribers who binge watched would also be able to watch an episode advert free based on their binging or have an offer from an advertiser for a reduction in price. Assuming this continues during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, Hulu subscribers could be encouraged to watch even more TV series using their service based on the binge advertising.
  • According to information from 2019 on muchneeded.com out of 47 million viewers (viewers take account of the number of people within a household who make use of Hulu's services rather than individual subscribers), 32 million choose to watch TV that contains adverts. As more viewers within households are likely to be at home, this could lead also lead to more viewers within a household making use of Hulu's service than did prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Research strategy

Details of the company's website were reviewed to determine what they are offering and any changes to their service as a result of COVID-19. Their press page revealed two recent changes made by the company which are likely to change the consumption and interaction their customers have with their site. A wider search was undertaken to look at more general trends with streaming service providers and these were reviewed to determine what specific mentions were made of Hulu. A review of advertising sites like adweek was undertaken to determine if they had reported any specific changes in relation to the use of Hulu and the outbreak of COVID-19. A search for figures relating to Hulu's subscriber numbers and usage was undertaken to establish if there were any reports made about a change in these related to COVID-19. Figures are available for last year and previous years but the search did not find specific figures for during the current outbreak which would have allowed a comparison with previous figures to determine the impact of changes. A specific search to look at Hulu's binge advertising which was referenced in previous searches was undertaken to find out more about it. This confirmed it had been launched and consideration was given to how it may impact changes in consumption and interactions with Hulu following COVID-19.


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Part
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Changes in Podcast and Web/Mobile Searches Consumption

As the world continues to grapple with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, there are indications of far-reaching changes in conventional consumption of and interaction with digital content as well as online searches. With special focus on podcasts and web/mobile searches, preliminary findings show that, overall, people are spending more time online and are consuming more digital content. This trend is defined by an almost indisputable pattern predicated on individual and family health concerns, the need to safeguard businesses, and an increased demand for accurate information regarding COVID-19.

People are spending more time online

  • As the epicenter of the coronavirus, changes in consumer behavior in the consumption of and interaction with digital content in China offers critical insights that are similar to the trends being witnessed in the United States.
  • Entertainment places such as theme parks and movie theaters are no-go zones as authorities implement the necessary measures to prevent the virus from spreading. Such interventions have already altered consumer interaction with and consumption of digital content. For example, according to QuestMobile, the average time spent daily across mobile internet devices rose by 10.3 percentage points from 6.1 hours to 6.8 hours in January. It rose further to 7.3 hours when self-quarantine measures were implemented.
  • Since people are staying indoors more, business organizations in the US have had to change their operations as everybody reacts to a pandemic unfolding in real-time. Businesses and consumers alike have both turned to online searches in search of solutions to their problems and answers to their questions. For some firms, this has resulted in gaining new customers; for others, not so much.
  • In the US, there has been a noticeable shift in Google searchers' behavior, which for the most part, has been constant. For instance, over the past week, Google search ad impressions decreased modestly by 7 percentage points below average. Though not entirely uncommon, most advertisers did not anticipate this, especially during these times.

Search patterns are changing

  • Based on Search Engine Results Pages (SERP), it is evident that consumers have prioritized entirely different things — an aspect that has downgraded the average conversion rates by 21%. Nonetheless, industries are being affected differently by this trend. Those that have registered increased metrics during this outbreak include charities and non-profit organizations, medical and health, business management, finance, on-demand media, beauty and personal care, gifts, flowers, and greetings. These trends suggest a definite pattern of people being concerned about their health and their loved ones.
  • As regards the increased metrics for business management and finance sectors, it was noted that searches in these sectors mostly originated from small businesses looking for ways to manage through the tough times. Indeed, from February 23, business management searches went up 23%. This can be contextualized as organizations looking to take their operations online if the increased office supplies searches (up 90%), paid search ad clicks (up 35%), and search conversion rates (up 41%) are anything to go by.
  • In the beauty and personal care industry, Google searches revealed an increased demand for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) over the past few weeks. Consumers are searching for products like sanitizer and soap, as well as going for more self-care. Overall, Google searches in this industry went up 41% with the overriding theme being concern for individual and family health.
  • Consumers were also fearful about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the economy, job security, and the likelihood of spreading the disease to others.

Companies are prioritizing accurate information

  • As more people go online for information, tech companies have implemented various measures to ensure that the information shared on their platforms is credible and accurate. Apple, for instance, is closing down information-sharing apps related to the coronavirus outbreak that are not from recognized institutions like hospitals, research organizations, and governments.
  • Apple's evaluation of coronavirus apps is specifically aimed at preventing the spread of misinformation. It assesses where the health data came from and whether the developers represented organizations that consumers can trust to publish accurate information such as governments or health-oriented organizations. Thus far, four independent app developers have had their apps removed from the Apple Store platform.
  • Similarly, in February, Amazon warned retailers it would bar product listings that claimed to kill the coronavirus. Equally, this month Facebook commented that it is “focused on making sure everyone can access credible and accurate information” about the COVID-19 outbreak and would remove content that were based on conspiracy theories. This shows the changes being implemented by companies to safeguard consumer interaction with podcast content.
  • Google searches associated with the coronavirus will now trigger an “SOS Alert,” with information from mainstream publications and from the National Public Radio, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) being displayed prominently. According to Statista, the most trusted sources of COVID-19 related information are the CDC (85%), WHO (77%), and the state government (70%).
  • These changes demonstrate the impact coronavirus is having, not only on the consumption of and interaction with digital content, but also on its creation as well. Web/mobile searches have equally changed significantly and reflect increasing concerns about health and safety. Overall, 71% of Americans are presently “very concerned” about COVID-19, compared to 47% two weeks ago.
Part
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Part
06

Bank of America Social Media Analysis

When looking at Bank of America's social media activity, one can notice a noticeable change after COVID-19 became prevalent in the United States. Engagement on all three social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) made significant increases in the past two weeks. The number of posts individual posts by Bank of America, however, decreased from February to March on all three platforms.

Social Media Source 1: Facebook

Social Media Source 2: Instagram

Social Media Source 3: Twitter

Social Media Source 4: Twitter (Bank of America News)

Part
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Part
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Bank of America Website Analysis

The Bank of America website has extremely high traffic rates, ranking #4 in its category (banking) and #52 out of the most visited sites in the US (#207 in the world). Alexa ranks the website by taking both traffic and engagement into account, and by that measure, the site is #423 in the world. Woorank has the BoA site at #395 in the world, for visitor numbers.

Traffic: Key Data Points

  • Page visits: 106.92 million per month. This is down 8% from last month.
  • Average time on site: 6:31 minutes according to SimilarWeb. Alexa pegs the average site time at 5:05. Both these figures are more than double the typical website session time of 2:17.
  • Website impressions (i.e. total page views). Each visitor to the BoA website clicks on an average of 7.27 pages. To find the total impressions per month, we then multiply this by the number of page visits (i.e. the number of visitors), as noted above. Total impressions then are 777.3 million per month.
  • Click-through.rate: Because this metric refers to advertising, we focused on the visitors arriving at BoA's website via paid keywords. 2.61% of visitors go to the site via the paid keywords "bank of america." This equates to 2.79 million visitors. In total, 94.61% of the website's visitors are organic, leaving 5.39% that are paid. That equates to 5.76 million visitors per month.
  • In addition, 0.17% of visitors arrive via digital advertising (display ads). They click through from sites like (in order) Thepointsguy.com, Nerd Wallet, and CompareCards.com. This equates to monthly visitors via display ads of 1.8 million.

Further Website Data

  • 97% of BoA's website visitors are in the United States.
  • 80.51% of visitors go directly to the website, while 16% make their way their through search engines, followed by 1.79% via emails.
  • Only 0.59% of the site's traffic is from social media. The top social media site sending people to BoA is YouTube, followed by Facebook, then LinkedIn.
  • There are 3,836 sites linking to the BoA site.
  • BoA's Facebook page has 2.7 million followers.
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Part
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JP Morgan Website Analysis

J.P. Morgan

  • The J.P. Morgan website receives 2.25 million monthly visitors, with 1.05 million unique monthly visitors.
  • The average visit duration is 4 minutes and 50 seconds.
  • The average number of pages per visit is 5.81.
  • The average bounce rate for this website is 46.51%.
  • Of the website's traffic, 73.65% comes from the United States.
  • The J.P. Morgan website is ranked #157 for websites in finance/investing. The website is ranked #4,147 among all websites in the U.S. on SimilarWeb and #2,011 on Alexa.
  • We've compiled screenshots from SimilarWeb and Alexa for your reference in case you don't have an account on these two platforms. You can find the screenshots in this Google Doc.


Part
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Part
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JP Morgan Social Media Analysis

The financial services industry does not use social media as much as other industries, and even businesses in the sector with social media accounts avoid actual engagement with their customers. This trend has made companies in the industry lose out on valuable consumer insights that could help them to increase their competitive advantage and to achieve long-term sustainability.

The Importance of Social Media

  • The Digital Marketing Institute reported that 74% of all consumers trust social network opinions to guide them in their purchasing decisions, including opinions that they get from friends, family, and influencers.
  • Therefore, consumers expect financial institutions to listen and respond via social media. This is important because with approximately 80% of Americans using social media, banks have an opportunity to leverage these numbers in order to increase their reach and customer loyalty.
  • Thus, J.P. Morgan needs to strengthen its position on social media because its competitors and customers are already there.
  • Furthermore, a brand can be mentioned on social media whether it has a social media account or not. It is therefore important for the brand to have its own social media channels so that it can control any information that is circulating about the company.
  • Engaging with customers will also move J.P. Morgan up the value chain and help to turn them into brand advocates.

J.P. Morgan on Facebook

  • The company's Facebook page has 369,830 followers, and it receives approximately 51 likes per day.
  • The company has received many negative social media impressions. For example, customers at its Singapore branch remarked about an abusive employee that yells at a security guard.
  • While this incident did not occur at the US branch of the company, it left a bad impression about the entire organization's culture. The senior country officer of the Singapore branch sent an internal memo that stated: "All of us... are expected to demonstrate the highest standards, including respect and dignity for others... inside and outside of the workplace." This demonstrated that the management understood the impact of unethical behavior on the company's image.
  • Over the years, the company has engaged with its customers on Facebook. For instance, it hosted a sweep stake in 2011 for Facebook users who liked the company's Chase Freedom credit card page. This helped to boost its social media presence.
  • The company's Facebook page also offers motivational news, financial tips to users, and answers any questions that they pose on the site.

J.P. Morgan on Twitter

  • This page has 505,888 followers and 7,172 tweets and replies.
  • The average number of retweets is 16, with at least 2 media posted daily.
  • J.P. Morgan regularly engages with its customers, giving them updates on financial issues, company activities, and events in the business world.
  • The social media impressions about the company have been negative in recent years. For example, a savings-related tweet in 2019 was turned around and used to portray J.P. Morgan as greedy and condescending.
  • This tweet prompted many conversations about the company's practices and how it exploits its customers. Therefore, rather than motivating Twitter users to engage more with the company, the tweet created more distance between it and its customers.
  • J.P. Morgan created #AskJPM as a tool for customers to ask questions and to receive answers from the company's vice chairman, Jimmy Lee. However, angry people on Twitter used it to attack the company and blame it for a myriad of problems in the world.
  • This demonstrated the apparent negative attitude that many people have for financial institutions such as J.P. Morgan.

J.P. Morgan on Instagram

  • J.P. Morgan's Instagram page has 177,541 followers, an average of 1,475.48 likes per post, and 316 uploads.
  • The average engagement rate on this page is 0.84%, which means the company has limited engagement with its customers via this channel.
  • The page contains information and pictures on business insights, statistics, news, and market movements.
  • Sentiments about the company on Instagram portray J.P. Morgan and other banks as institutions that work for long hours and require employees to be available as much as possible.
  • This was evident when an email between a junior and senior associate went viral and the contents posted on Instagram. The post showed that the company's senior employees were too detail-oriented, and this led its Instagram followers to believe that the company demanded too much from its employees.
  • Such sentiments can damage a company's reputation and make potential hires hesitate seeking employment at J.P. Morgan because of the perceived excessive workload.
  • To increase engagement with consumers, the company pushes content that appeals to the younger generation.

Research Strategy

For this request, we collected information from industry reports and the company's social media channels. Once we obtained the relevant material, we selected the most appropriate information for inclusion in the final brief.
Sources
Sources

From Part 01
From Part 09
Quotes
  • ""All of us... are expected to demonstrate the highest standards, including respect and dignity for others... inside and outside of the workplace.""