It turns out that what it takes to run a bank that handles $3.8 trillion in assets, like JPMorgan, is actually pretty simple: hard work and care.
That’s according to the lender’s CEO, billionaire and Wall Street stalwart Jamie Dimon.
In recent weeks Dimon has faced increased scrutiny about when he will hand over the reins at the bank that recently acquired First Republic—perhaps prompted by the news that Morgan Stanley’s CEO, James Gorman, is set to step down in the next 12 months after more than a decade leading the business.
Dimon said he’s got no plans for such an exit during the bank’s Investor Relations Day earlier this week, but did give a different answer to his usual response of “five more years” at the helm.
He said he expects to lead the organization for “three and a half” more years, adding he knows he can’t keep up his level of intensity forever, having taken on the mantle in 2005.
CEOs cannot expect to “retire in place,” he added: “I can’t do this forever, I know that. My intensity is the same. I think when I don’t have that intensity, I should leave.”
Dimon also revealed the board has a range of options to choose from as his successor, a prospect they’re “very comfortable” with.
But what will it take to fill such esteemed shoes?
The important traits
“I think the most important traits [are] that you’re trusted and respected by people, that you work your ass off, that you give a s**t, that you know you don’t know everything,” Dimon said.
He added great leadership requires the ability to admit you’re wrong, explaining: “That you’re willing to change direction, you’re willing to go in front of your shareholders and say, ‘We screwed up, we made a mistake, we were wrong about that.'”
“My management team knows, I don’t think I’ve ever, ever defended a decision,” Dimon—who oversees a workforce of more than 240,000—explained. “Just do the right thing going forward, that’s it.
“I don’t really care what we did yesterday, and so I’m very much that mindset. I also get over bad s*** really quickly…because that’s how you can kind of move on in life.”
Unfortunately for anyone looking to step up to the plate, there are also a couple of characteristics Dimon wants to see that are hard to teach.
“If you don’t have grit, you don’t have it. If you don’t have courage, you don’t have it,” he said.
It’s not clear who Dimon envisages handing the top job to, but analysis from the New York Times indicates Marianne Lake and Jennifer Piepszak—co-CEOs of the consumer and community banking division—are the front-runners.
A game of trust
Dimon also laid out the relationship his successor can expect to have with the bank’s board—highlighting the importance of governance from the get-go.
The 67-year-old pointed out that there are no rules in place requiring bank boards to meet without the CEO at least once a year, though he had encouraged previous boards to do so anyway.
The board is encouraged to meet with senior management without the CEO present, he added, in order to avoid being influenced by their boss.
Dimon was also open about his personality’s impact on the business, saying it is particularly important for the board to meet with executives if the CEO has a strong personality—like his own.
Dimon, who’s also chairman of the board at JPMorgan Chase, added he’s not known for showing gratitude to his direct reports—though he does feel it.
Bloomberg reported that Dimon revealed when he was younger he worried that by praising subordinates it would encourage them to ask for raises, adding that he uses profanities to emphasize his feelings instead.