Jamie Dimon said that he never wanted to be an investment banker or a trader, he just wanted to “see a large corporation from the inside”. This, he says, is why he turned down offers from Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley to work alongside Sandy Weill at American Express. Nonetheless, financial services – and large banks – are still the place to be, he says.
In a talk to Stanford University students earlier this month, Dimon said that finance is still at the “nexus of how capitalist society functions”, is still a “fascinating field to get into” and is always going to be well paid. “It has to be well paid because we can’t do it with dumb people making dumb decisions,” he said.
J.P. Morgan spends $9bn on technology every year, and Dimon said that “we’re not at the bleeding edge, but we’re damn close”. While tech encroaches on everything from sales and trading to, increasingly, advisory work, Dimon also pointed to one part of the business where J.P. Morgan is keener than ever to hire the best and brightest. Dimon says the bank scours the top schools where it finds graduate investment bankers and traders every year and hires 10 people on to the bank’s general management programme because “we need people to run the damn joint too”. It wants the “same quality” among the people it hires here, as those who choose investment banking division and so it’s also paying the same compensation.
This being a business school interview, Dimon was asked about what “leadership qualities” he looks for in new recruits. Dimon replied that these are hard to demonstrate when you’re young, but looks for the “basic stuff” including people understanding everything there is about the strategy of the company. “People walk into your office and they say ‘I’d like to know about the strategy of your company’….and they didn’t bother to read the chairman’s letter that I wrote, which is like 30 or 40 pages long,” he said.
“Other people walk in and they know everything, so when you have a conversation they’re actually enhancing your life, as opposed to the other way around”. Dimon also says that he wants to see people who “don’t shave the truth”, and say the same thing to everyone. “The second I see someone doing something different to that, they just go on a list for me and I have no interest in them,” he said.
Dimon, who said he’d fire any J.P. Morgan employee trading bitcoin and later promised to stop talking about it after the furore the comments created, has also broken his vow of silence on the topic. “I don’t care about bitcoin, I couldn’t give a shit to tell the truth,” he said.
Separately, over the past week, the prospects for banking jobs in London have been looking a bit bleak. Financial services firms are poised to “flood” out if a Brexit transition deal is not struck soon, an expensive lunch with the European heads of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley and U.S. commerce secretary Wilbur Smith in London was generally downbeat, and the world’s biggest banks now see a “disorderly” Brexit as “inevitable”.
Still, investment banks are now talking about less severe job losses in London, and the FT has a new explanation – the “branch back”. While the initial fallout from Brexit discussed the need to move trading jobs out of London in order to retain their “passporting” rights to trade in the European bloc, this arrangement is essentially the opposite. EU regulators have already said that they’d resist “brass plating” of new European branches by financial services organisations and would expect a significant commitment of people and capital on the ground.