Dimon comes up Trumps

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By:
Mark Baker
Published on:

Has Jamie Dimon been taking public speaking lessons from Donald Trump? Watching a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the Institute of International Finance (IIF) in Washington recently, where he sat alongside Mike Corbat and James Gorman, you'd be forgiven for thinking so.

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The Dimon: making Washington fun again 

The Dimon has always had something of a freewheeling style, but here he was on supreme form, firing volley after volley of half-formed sentences, his mouth barely able to keep up with his thoughts, the hand gestures accompanying every phrase. He even says China like The Donald.

There was populism. When it came to regulation, people should modify and calibrate it "FOR THE PEOPLE OF THE NATION!" There was no-nonsense practicality: regulators should "just get something done". There was no Goldilocks economy right now: "We should be doing better." There were claims of widespread ignorance, when talking about the cumulative effect of the many regulatory changes: "No one really knows!" You almost expected a "folks" at the end of it all.

There were breathless streams of consciousness, the stenographer's nightmare. "Banks are huge users of technology, the cost of products and services is almost a tenth of what it was 20 years ago, we all need to use these to serve our clients, we bank 20 million people on mobile, you can get alerts, you can move money, you can invest money, we're all going to have robo investors, we're all going to use the Cloud to reduce costs, and we're all going to be doing machine learning, bots, AI, blockchain, it all works, it'll be deployed..."

No topic was too arcane to be given The Dimon treatment. Infrastructure finance was an opportunity for excoriation of the political classes, with a brisk allegation of criminal behaviour thrown in for good measure. He noted that the Democrats were saying they need another $50 billion a year for infrastructure — although The Dimon thinks that should be more like $100 billion — while the Republicans are saying no more taxation to build bridges to nowhere. 

"I am sympathetic to both". Cue another barrage: "We need better infrastructure, roads, bridges, tunnels — I don't think New York City has built a bridge or a tunnel — and now we're doing La Guardia, fixing the airport — for almost 50 years.

"Sometimes money is taxed on citizens, it goes to Washington, there's a great sucking sound, and the money gets doled out to their favourite members, mayors, governors, projects — I was driving by a project in Boston the other day, it's a little bridge, about five times the size of the thing we are sitting on here — four years in the running! Don't tell me it wasn't fraud."

And inevitably, there was pride. "I am so damn proud of what this company JP Morgan accomplishes every day around the world. The clients actually like us, they want us, they want more of us, they want our capital, they want our brainpower, they want our — and this is for small businesses, middle market, sovereign wealth funds, governments [...] These are fabulous things!"

As The Dimon reminded everyone, he has said before that he would love to be President. "But I'm not going to run — we torture those people!" He wants whoever gets in to drop the rhetoric of Democrat and Republican. "Who cares?" And if he does change his mind, he's got his slogan ready: "Make America fun again!"

The Dimon is not The Donald, though. He pointedly welcomed all immigrants in the room when he started speaking. His self-awareness gives him away. "Every now and then you make a mistake, and it could be a doozy." And he has spoken passionately about how destructive he believes the tone of the US presidential campaign to be.

But if Corbat and Gorman were occasionally startled by Jamie's outpourings — Gorman in particular, asked to sum up after the "doozy" — then they should have counted their blessings. At least The Dimon wasn't threatening to put either of them in jail.