State Street Corp. cut thousands of jobs in high-cost locations around the world last year as its executives continued their hunt for cost efficiencies.
But the Boston-based financial services company is taking a much different approach this year, now that it is facing the coronavirus pandemic and all the market volatility that goes along with it.
Chief executive Ron O’Hanley said in an interview on Friday that he has promised his roughly 39,000 employees that there would be no layoffs “for the duration of this crisis,” a time period he acknowledged could last until the end of the year.
“Our people were doing so much on behalf of our clients, under very trying circumstances, that I didn’t want them worrying about their jobs,” O’Hanley said.
That’s a different approach than the one O’Hanley took last year, starting 2019 with a plan to cut 1,500 jobs in high-cost locations, including Boston. By year’s end, O’Hanley had cut the total employee count by 3 percent, in large part by shaving 3,400 jobs in those high-cost locations through a combination of layoffs and attrition.
On Friday, O’Hanley credited his employees for enabling the company to report a 25 percent increase in net income for the first quarter from a year ago, along with a 4.5 percent increase in revenue to $3.1 billion in the quarter — even as the total value of its assets under management and custody fell somewhat. He said the company benefited amid the market volatility as investors moved into lower-risk investments, triggering a significant volume in foreign exchange trading. “Transaction volume was high,” he said. “That drove our revenues.”
More than 90 percent of State Street’s employees are working from home, O’Hanley said. He is still going to work at the Boston headquarters, but few others are. (He said he regularly meets with three other executives in a conference room that could hold 30.)
“The work we do is totally essential,” O’Hanley said. “We [handle] the plumbing for the capital markets. Every day we’ve got to perform.”
“So much of that was able to take place working from home,” he added. “I couldn’t be prouder of our employees.”