JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is done being the banking industry’s White Knight, even if it has been a winning strategy for him during the sector’s recent instability.
Analysts have argued that JPMorgan got a sweetheart deal from regulators when it bought the assets of the failed regional lender First Republic earlier this month. But Dimon said Thursday that the acquisition has hidden costs, arguing it “distracts” the company from other operations and growth areas.
“People always look at the financial deal. Forget the financial deal,” the CEO lamented in a Bloomberg interview. “We have 800 people working around the clock [on this]. 10,000 people deployed to consolidate systems, risk, fraud, credit, payments, branches, real estate, vendors, technology, it’s a lot of work.”
Dimon said he ended up buying First Republic’s assets because it was “marginally beneficial for shareholders” and definitely good for the financial system, but that’s not the whole story and he doesn’t plan on making another acquisition. A lot of work will need to be done to combine the two banks and create value for JPMorgan shareholders, according to the CEO, who added that he has to be “prepared for the other side of that mountain.”
Dimon’s comments come after a series of mishaps in the banking industry that began in March when the U.S. regional lenders Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank collapsed, forcing regulators to use the “systemic risk exception” to prevent depositor losses. Not long after, UBS was forced to rescue its ailing Swiss peer Credit Suisse in a $3.2 billion deal that required billions of francs in Swiss taxpayer money to help stabilize markets.
Then, in mid-March, First Republic began showing signs of stress. The San-Francisco-based lender had many of the same issues as SVB, including a large uninsured depositor base and long-term bond holdings that had lost much of their value. But the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and 11 big banks, including JPMorgan and Wells Fargo, coordinated to deposit $30 billion in First Republic, hoping to prop up the ailing bank. And it seemed to work, at least until April 24 when First Republic revealed in its first-quarter earnings report that, despite the help, it had lost $102 billion in customer deposits since March. The next day the stock plummeted nearly 50%.
By May 1, regulators announced that First Republic was defunct and JPMorgan would acquire its assets, including $173 billion of loans, $30 billion of securities, and $92 billion of deposits. Dimon and company paid $10.6 billion to the FDIC as a part of the deal, and promised to repay the $25 billion that other large banks gave First Republic to help it stay afloat in March. JPMorgan also received $50 billion in FDIC financing at a fixed rate, and the potential to woo clients from First Republic’s $290 billion wealth management business.
While a number of analysts and commentators have argued that the mega bank got a great deal buying First Republic’s assets, and multiple billionaire investors have warned that more bank failures could be on the way, Dimon said he won’t make another purchase.
“No, I doubt it,” he told Bloomberg. “I mean we’re gonna have a lot of blowback having bought this one, but it was the right thing to do.”
It’s not the first time Dimon has said he won’t acquire another failed bank, however. In March 2008, just a few years into Dimon’s tenure as JPMorgan’s CEO, he bought the failed investment bank Bear Stearns for just $2 per share ($1.4 billion), 93% less than the bank’s final trading price. The deal was also backed by $30 billion in support from regulators and it forced the Federal Reserve to take over Bear Stearns’ most toxic assets.
Still, buying that bank, as well as its failed peer Washington Mutual, left JPMorgan on the hook for all of its troubles. By 2013, JPMorgan had to pay a $13 billion fine to regulators stemming mainly from problems with the mortgage backed securities at Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual.
The experience led Dimon to write in his 2015 shareholder letter:
“No, we would not do something like Bear Stearns again. I don’t think our board would let me take the call.”