Jamie Dimon was abruptly called into action on JPMorgan’s fourth-quarter earnings call with analysts in January.
Dimon typically sits in the background on earnings calls these days, leaving it to his chief financial officer – which for the last nine months has been former cards head Jennifer Piepszak, who took over from Marianne Lake in May – to present the results and handle the question-and-answer session.
But Wells Fargo analyst Mike Mayo is always keen to hear from Dimon, and duly introduced himself with a somewhat brusque: “Hi. Is Jamie on the call?”
What Mayo wanted to know was why Dimon felt that an easing of the long-running trade dispute between the US and China had helped market activity in December, something that Dimon had referenced in his published comments alongside the bank’s earnings release.
The earnings call came just as the US and China had announced a “phase one” agreement on trade, which saw China make commitments on intellectual property, on opening up its financial services sector to US banks, and stepping up imports from the US.
In return, US president Donald Trump hinted that tariffs could be reduced further if a second round of talks proved fruitful.
“Resolution of some trade issues helped support client and market activity towards the end of the year,” Dimon had written.
If Mayo was hoping for a thorough development of Dimon’s thinking, he would have been disappointed as the JPMorgan CEO was in characteristically brisk mood.
It was a hard question to answer, he said. Trade concerns had eased off a bit but wouldn’t go away completely. After all, there were still “actual ongoing trade issues of China and Europe and stuff like that”.
But because sentiment got better, trading conditions got better.
“How long that continues, we don’t know,” he added, helpfully.