Chase in Puerto Rico
Earliest roots and branch growth
JPMorgan Chase traces its roots in Puerto Rico back to 1933 with the establishment of Chase National Bank’s branch in the heart of San Juan. In the 90 years since, the firm and its predecessors have continued to play a major role in the island’s history. Highlighted below are a few stories and individuals that have contributed to the firm’s legacy in Puerto Rico.
Chase National Bank opened its first Puerto Rico branch at 3 Calle Tetuán, San Juan on November 3, 1933, joining offices in Panama and Cuba to extend its service coverage in the Caribbean. Charles J. Schaer served as the first manager, and Ferdinand E. Zegri, a Puerto Rican born member of the Foreign Department, served as the assistant manager.
Located in the heart of the banking district, the branch received business from commercial firms, export houses, individuals, and other banks alike. In 1938, the bank saw a boost in service when one of its cross streets was extended and broadened to allow for more traffic.
Chase continued to open branches on the island over the next several decades, and, in 1967, broke ground on a brand-new headquarters building for Puerto Rico in Hato Rey. Completed in 1969, the 14-story building at the corner of Muñoz Rivera Avenue and Bolivia Street was the bank’s largest bank-operated real estate investment outside of the continental United States at the time. Chase sold many of its branches in Puerto Rico in 1991, shifting its business focus away from retail banking towards other services like wholesale and electronic banking but maintained its presence at Hato Rey into the late 1990s.
Extraordinary people in charge
The Chase Puerto Rico offices and branches were run by extraordinary people throughout the years. Francisco de Jesus joined Chase in 1951 as an assistant manager of the Puerto Rico branches. Originally from Ponce, Puerto Rico, de Jesus received his undergraduate degree from the University of Puerto Rico, as well as a Masters in Agricultural Economics from Cornell. After graduation, he worked with the Commonwealth Government of Puerto Rico in various executive positions, including at the University of Puerto Rico and at the Economic Development Administration. He also served as the Undersecretary of the Treasury in the Commonwealth Treasury Department during Governor Luis Munoz Marin’s first term in office (1949-1952).
After joining Chase National, de Jesus was quickly promoted to manager in 1954, followed by assistant vice president in 1957. By 1964 he was in charge of all Puerto Rico branches, serving as the vice president and general manager. De Jesus oversaw many of Chase’s prominent milestones during his tenure at the bank, including the construction of Chase’s new Puerto Rico headquarters in 1969 and its $30-million financing arrangement of the Puerto Rico Highway Authority. De Jesus was also an active member of the community and held positions such as a board member of the Radio Corporation of Puerto Rico, director and treasurer of the Bankers Club of Puerto Rico, president of the Puerto Rico Bankers Association, and member of the advisory committee of the Farmers Home Administration.
For the past 90 years, JPMorgan Chase and its predecessors have built a strong legacy in Puerto Rico, and while JPMorgan Chase does not have the same footprint it once had in Puerto Rico, the island has nevertheless made a lasting mark on the business and culture of the bank.