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A new golden age for banking?

Good, sustainable returns for shareholders are finally in sight, 10 years after the global financial crisis.


JPMorgan’s chairman and chief executive Jamie Dimon

On a conference call arranged by Bernstein at the beginning of July, JPMorgan’s chairman and chief executive Jamie Dimon was on his usual bombastic form, but one statement stood out.

When asked by the moderator “Is there a bull case for the profitability of the banking industry?”, he replied: “You’re going to have a golden age of banking. You have a golden age of banking.” 

In case anyone doubted his own genius, he prefaced his reply with: “You guys thought I was kidding when, years ago, I said you’re going to have a golden age of banking.”

Dimon went on to point out the resilience of JPMorgan Chase’s own earnings – “they’re extraordinarily consistent year after year after year – and not just us, OK?” 

In terms of the quantum of earnings, he’s absolutely right. Free from post-crisis fines and settlements, the absolute amount of profit being generated by the world’s biggest banks – and, it has to be pointed out, not just among the US-headquartered ones – is at least at pre-crisis levels. 

It’s the return on equity – usually struggling to get into double-digits, when more than a decade ago they were often 20%-plus, thanks to capital levels up to a third smaller – that’s been the problem.

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