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Opinion

Macaskill on markets: Disruption, valuation and banking

JPMorgan wants to have fun being a disruptor, but persistently low valuations for even the strongest banks limit its options.

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Jeremy Barnum, JPMorgan’s new chief financial officer, cut a relaxed figure on his first quarterly earnings call on July 13. The numbers were strong, as they usually are for JPMorgan.

A record quarter for investment banking fees – and a number one global ranking – helped to balance a 30% year-on-year fall in markets revenue from a record quarter last year when central banks revived sentiment after the worst of the pandemic.

Confidence is up, which prompted the release of $3 billion of credit reserves and helped JPMorgan to report a profit of almost $12 billion, up by $7.3 billion on the same quarter in 2020.

There was nothing much to discuss in the numbers, so analysts asked Barnum and his boss Jamie Dimon whether a series of relatively small recent acquisitions are part of a strategic master plan. Barnum noted that one theme linking moves by JPMorgan to expand in retail banking in countries like the UK and Brazil is that market share can be pursued digitally.

“It’s kind of fun to be the disruptor,” Barnum said. He may have been pining for his days as an innovator in credit derivatives trading at the start of his career or simply admitting boredom with the business of keeping the banking supertanker that is JPMorgan on course.

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