In 2018, Jamie Dimon “thought about thinking about” a run for the US presidency, saying of the then incumbent Donald Trump: “I’m as tough as he is, I’m smarter than he is”. Eventually persuaded he had no chance, the JPMorgan Chase boss had to settle for an unofficial title instead: “president of Wall Street”, says The Sunday Times.
Bloodied but unbowed
What is indisputable is that Dimon, at 65, is one of banking’s great survivors. Having “made it to the top with his idiosyncratic blend of arrogance, self-confidence and warmth”, he ensured JPMorgan emerged from the 2008 crash “bloodied but unbowed”, becoming the US government’s buyer of last resort for stricken rivals like Bear Stearns. More recently, he has survived throat cancer and emergency heart surgery.
Detractors point to “errors of judgement”, such as the London Whale scandal of 2012, which Dimon initially dismissed as “a tempest in a teapot”, but wound up costing the bank $6.2bn. They also note his ruthlessness at pushing out potential successors. But ultimately performance counts. Since the dawning of the “Dimon era” in 2005, JPMorgan’s total returns have easily outstripped those of competitors. With $3.4trn in assets, “the only bigger banks in the world are China’s state-owned giants”.
Subscribe to MoneyWeek
Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE
Dimon – a descendant of Greek immigrants – had a cushioned start in life. Both his father and grandfather were stockbrokers and the family moved to New York’s Upper East Side when Jamie was 12. After attending Browning, a private boys’ school, he graduated from Boston’s Tufts University with a degree in psychology and economics, and put in a stint as a management consultant before heading to Harvard for an MBA. Dimon got his big break when his father passed on an essay he’d written to Sandy Weill, then heading American Express, who took him on, says Vanity Fair. They went on to build the Citigroup banking behemoth, “pieced together merger after merger”. But the relationship, while close, was complicated. “The hyper-ambitious Dimon wanted Weill’s job”; his mentor wasn’t about to give it up, and in 1998 Dimon was abruptly fired – he didn’t see it coming.
That humiliation galvanised him. He headed to Chicago “to lick his wounds”, taking control of the little-known Bank One, sprucing it up and eventually selling out to JPMorgan – in the process becoming CEO. Aside from his obvious drive, the secret of Dimon’s success is his “genuine love of the ‘plumbing’ of the business”, says Vanity Fair. Others credit an unusual ability to be “both strategic and very hands on”, says The Sunday Times. Dimon is the kind of boss who remembers the names of juniors he meets in the lift. He also carries around a list of who owes him favours.
America’s least-hated banker
Dubbed “America’s least-hated banker” by The New York Times in 2010, Dimon has spent the past decade framing himself as a thinker and statesman. He likes to press the flesh, and apparently relishes his role as international powerbroker, claiming he’s “not swayed by geopolitical winds”. And he certainly seems entrenched at JPMorgan, says The Sunday Times – recently accepting a “golden handcuffs” package of $49m in stock options spread over ten years. Dimon says “the board insisted” he accepted. Then again, “as both chairman and chief executive” of arguably the world’s most powerful bank, “he really is the board”.
Jane writes profiles for MoneyWeek and is city editor of The Week. A former British Society of Magazine Editors editor of the year, she cut her teeth in journalism editing The Daily Telegraph’s Letters page and writing gossip for the London Evening Standard – while contributing to a kaleidoscopic range of business magazines including Personnel Today, Edge, Microscope, Computing, PC Business World, and Business & Finance.
She has edited corporate publications for accountants BDO, business psychologists YSC Consulting, and the law firm Stephenson Harwood – also enjoying a stint as a researcher for the due diligence department of a global risk advisory firm.
Her sole book to date, Stay or Go? (2016), rehearsed the arguments on both sides of the EU referendum.
She lives in north London, has a degree in modern history from Trinity College, Oxford, and is currently learning to play the drums.
The fallout from the war on landlords
Investors fleeing the market and the rise in rents are affecting us all.
By Charlie Ellingworth Published
Eight small-cap trusts to bet on
Funds investing in market minnows are out of favour, but the cycle will turn. Here are the best bets.
By Max King Published
The jury's out on the AI summit at Bletchley Park
World governments gathered for an AI summit at Bletchley Park in November, but were they too focused on threats at the expense of economic benefits?
By Simon Wilson Published
As a market correction begins, money is on the move.
The force of a market correction is equal and opposite to the delusion that preceded it, so we can imagine that the correction will also be unparalleled.
By Bill Bonner Published
How small businesses can retain staff in a competitive job market
Small businesses are struggling to retain staff and compete against large companies with deep pockets.
By David Prosser Published
The French economy's Macron bubble is bursting
Cheap debt and a luxury boom have flattered the French economy. That streak of luck is running out.
By Matthew Lynn Published
K-pop hitman Bang Si-hyuk aims to repeat BTS phenomenon
Bang Si-hyuk created the world’s biggest boy band, BTS, making K-pop music a global sensation and himself very rich. Can he repeat the trick with a girl band?
By Jane Lewis Published
Nudge theory – how does it hold up, 15 years later?
Nudge theory, the revolutionary theory of how governments can get you to change your behavior for your own good, is now 15 years old. How does it stand up?
By Stuart Watkins Published
Betting on US politics – who'll be the next US President?
In the latest betting on US politics, with just over a year until the next US presidential election, punters pick Donald Trump as the favourite.
By Dr Matthew Partridge Published
UK wages grow at a record pace
The latest UK wages data will add pressure on the BoE to push interest rates even higher.
By Nicole García Mérida Published