JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon on financial philanthropy and changing healthcare

Photo: World Economic Forum / Flickr / Creative Commons 2.0

JPMorgan Chase is working to pair its financial and philanthropic resources to create a more diverse, equal, and bias-free financial world. Part of those efforts is its program for gender equality, Women on the Move, which aims to expand women-run businesses, improve women’s financial health, and empower women’s career growth. At the 2019 Women on the Move Leadership Day, CEO Jamie Dimon spoke with Raquel Oden, the Northeast Division Director at JPMorgan Chase & Co to hear his thoughts on the company’s philanthropy, being an ally, and healthcare.

Why was Women on the Move so important for you to focus on?

“Women on the Move didn’t start with me. It started with some of our senior women, who had been requested by other women, why don’t you come see us and engage in a conversation, talk about careers and life and kids, and things like that. And it took off. A lot of the leaders that are here got together, and it just grew dramatically and people wanted more and more of it.

I was in San Francisco. I didn’t feel well, I had been to like five or six events and my chief of staff said, ‘You got one more you’ve got to do,’ which wasn’t in my calendar, and I said, ‘Absolutely, positively not. I don’t feel good. I don’t want to go.’ She made me do it. It was at a Georgio Armani store. I walked in and there were 150 women, of which 20 were our bankers, and these women, this is San Francisco, they were venture capitalists, lawyers, entrepreneurs, CEOs, etc.,  It was shocking to me a little bit. A lot of them came and kind of whispered in my ear how much they thought of the women at JPMorgan Chase. They had heard about the women’s initiative at the company and how much they appreciate the things in general that we do for women, and then that started my mind going, my god, this is bigger than just our own internal thing. The same women were asking, what can we do to bring Women on the Move outside JPMorgan? Helping entrepreneurs, helping leadership, coming up with ideas to broaden this whole effort to help women in this country and around the world.”

Half of your operating committee is women, 6 women to be exact. If you could share with us the efforts you put in place to ensure under your reign that this is what a true operating committee looks like today.

Well, I don’t know what a true one looks like, and we didn’t have artificial targets. All the women there are there because they are the best at what they do inside the company. I always say the door to diversity is much more about having a company where people are treated with trust and respect, they’re treated equally, they’re treated properly, they’re given a chance, they’re given a voice, it’s not a boys club, the doors are open for anybody…and then people shine at the top. It just so happens that we have exceptional women who shine at the top. These folks are running global businesses around the world. So, it works over time. People who are really good kind of surface to the top. We should obviously work at it by all the various programs.”

What advice do you give to your daughters?

“I do think I raised my girls the same way I would’ve raised anybody. I want them to have a purpose, I want them to have humility, I want them to give a damn about life, I want them to do what they want- not what I want. I didn’t bring them up to do any particular thing. One’s a reporter, one works in planning in a hospital and one works at Allen & Company, more on the venture capital side of healthcare. What I wanted is human beings, who walk this Earth, who are appreciated by human beings, who are productive and have a purpose. That’s what I wanted. Whatever that purpose is wasn’t as important to me.

My wife said she wanted them to get A’s.  I was always ‘Do the best you can. Do the best you can and I’ll accept your grade, but I won’t accept sloppy.’ And I wanted them to be happy. So those are not about women’s issues, it’s about them, how they want to walk through life. Obviously that they are women changes some of those designs, but it doesn’t change all of them. Men have a tough time too sometimes- just so you know.”

Can you share your thoughts on being a support, an ally to the manager men in the room today?

“I support all the programs we have, but if they’re not done seriously, or with intent, or with good outcomes, then they don’t matter that much. I’ve seen mentoring programs that don’t work. Who knows how long we’ve been advertising diversity for black people in the magazines. I don’t advertise in Fortune magazine about our diversity. I think that’s a waste of $50,000. I want diversity- which is a different thing. We should do these things, but before you’ve got to really make sure that they’re working.

Women on the Move taught me that men are allies, and my first response was, ‘I don’t know what that means.’ But I was taught what it means and there’s one example that always sticks in my mind. We have a partners room, a woman pointed this out to me, she said, ‘Jamie watch these people walk in a room on a Monday morning and go get the buffet lunch or sit down with other partners.’ And the men who walk in the room, it’s like ‘hey buddy, how are you? Did you see that football catch? How’s your golf game?’ All that male chatter, which I’m not against friends, I’m not against male chatter, but it immediately excluded two classes of people…there were the friends of so and so, and the everybody else are women, gay, disabled, shy people…and so the point is that it’s the job of the leader to sit down where the black people are eating, or sit down and have a conversation with women, right, have a conversation with people you don’t normally speak to. We should all do that, not just the leaders.”

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Posted by JPMorgan Chase & Co. on Monday, July 15, 2019

Once you get to know someone, one of the things we talked about that’s very important is this mentorship or sponsorship. What’s your view on that?

I believe in mentorship and sponsorship- with the following caveat…when mentors give you advice, you don’t always know if they’re right, so a lot of people who want to be your mentor aren’t good mentors. They will give you different advice I might, or something like that. So make it your own job to reach out. I never had a mentor, by the way. When I grew up it was much more sink or swim. Very rarely did someone put their arm around me and says, ‘Jamie, here’s the way you should’ve approached that.’ You mentor yourself by learning what other people do and how they do it and how they run meetings and how they connect with other people.

And the same thing with sponsorship. The thing that always bugs me about sponsorship is that it implies that they are sponsoring you to get ahead. Where maybe what you needed was a swift kick in the a** and you shouldn’t be artificially promoted. You should have people give you honest feedback and get honest feedback. I tell people, it’s hard to get feedback, I still don’t like doing it sometimes, but if you don’t give people honest feedback you’re actually helping them fail.”

As a CEO, do you believe companies not only have an obligation to shareholders, but also to the community as a whole?

“You should always listen to what people say. Even when you have a knee-jerk reaction against it, sometimes they’re partially right. And you try when you’re able to, sometimes you’re blinded by stuff. Try to feel where the other person may be partially right. Understand it and maybe walk in their shoes a little bit. It was a reporter who mentioned to me that the business round table that I’m a chairman of, that we have this statement that says we have a fiduciary responsibility and we have our primary privacy obligation to shareholder value. Okay, well that’s fine, except the American public hears fiduciary and they hear that I’m standing behind my lawyer. They hear shareholder value and they hear short-term profit-taking. Is that the way we run these companies? The fact is if you don’t take care of your customers, you’re going to fail. If you don’t take care of your employees or your customers, you’re going to fail.

The community is a little bit different, but if you run a small bakery shop, you participate in the community. Just because we operate in over 2,000 cities around the world doesn’t mean that we can’t have our branch manager participate as if they were a local bakery shop. A local bakery shop takes food to a homeless shelter, they hire a kid in the summer, they support a local religious institution, or Little League or something like that, and we should be the same. The other thing, if you think about community, if you look at a country that’s doing really badly, how are its businesses doing? Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba. So I think to take a little time to focus on lifting up the community. It could be the schools, it could be local businesses there, it could be a whole bunch of different things, but I think that is part of the job. And when we say shareholder value, it’s not just shareholder value, it’s shareholder value and the customers, and the consumer, and employees, and communities…and the way that you can add some kind of value.

I tell other CEOs, when you look at this document, don’t give it to your general counsels. They’ll just tear it apart. Who gives a damn about all that stuff? Because that’s not the American public. I tell people all the time, all the things we do for customers, and employees, and communities, and keeping companies afloat. Even in the Great Recession, what we did was extraordinary- at huge losses to us. Because our job, at that point, was keeping the economy and those companies going, not about profit. It’s like a team. You’re not going to have a quarterback without a running back and a defensive end. They work as a team. If one really fails badly, you are going to fail. I feel the same way about this. We should describe it the way we run it, not the way that some lawyers want us to do it. Sorry if you’re a lawyer.”

The efforts we are doing right now, Women on the Move or Advancing Black Pathways, it isn’t a JP Morgan Chase thing, we want others to follow. Can you share a little bit more about that?

“So we did the veterans thing, which we kind of started, but we said it was about hiring veterans. We started a 100,000 jobs mission. We went and figured out what these veterans skills are. A lot of them didn’t know, by the way…they knew logistics, and teamwork, and supplies, communication skills…they learn a lot of things in the military- the best trainer in the country. But we opened it up to anyone. Anyone who joined got all the information, got equal billing, that 100,000 jobs mission hired 500,000 veterans. That’s how successful its been.

Advancing Black Pathways is far tougher than women. If you look at all these companies, the black community isn’t remotely close to parity after 165 years after the Civil War. Some of it is generational from poverty, inner city schools, all these various things. It’s time to be serious. So that one, we split it apart, like we do a lot of things. We have a team that does nothing but that. Tracking everybody- EDs, MDs for promotion- looking at people coming up and recruiting from the outside. We’re up 50% black EDs and MDs in a little over two and a half years.

One of the things that came out of Advancing Black Pathways, it came out of Detroit, it was the mayor’s idea. He said, my small business entrepreneurs of color have a hard time getting extra loans to grow their business. So a lot of white folks, they have their family to fall back on, they may have some network to fall back on, or equity in their home to fall back on. So we said, ‘got it.’ We studied it, we made $6 million in loans…I think 40 loans in Detroit. We started people advising them, our own people, local people, and this program we call Entrepreneurs of Color Fund and I think we now have 20 other institutions in it. The same thing, we’re doing it in the South Bronx, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, these other institutions. So why not 600 million? Why not 6 billion?

But it can’t be charity. It can’t be throwing good money at the bad. It’s got to be, we create a sustainable path that these entrepreneurs are given the help they need, cheap loans and help, especially if they become real banking, so they change to a real banking system afterwards…that’s success and we’ll find a way to actually bring people success and we’ll focus on women entrepreneurs and women entrepreneurs of color.”

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Posted by JPMorgan Chase & Co. on Tuesday, September 24, 2019

We know that getting behind women entrepreneurs and giving access to capital can change a country. It’s about the innovation and development. One of the things that’s also very important about that is advancing cities. Can you talk a little bit about more about that?

“So again, that came out of Detroit where, Detroit went from 2 million people to 700,000, collapsing over 20 years. It’s an amazing thing to me that we knew this was going to happen, that trains coming down the tracks…it’s coming down the tracks in healthcare, infrastructure, a bunch of other cities… and what are we doing? Absolutely nothing. I don’t know what happened to us as a society, we can’t get our act together.

Anyway, Detroit had a great mayor, and he asked me, I’m worried about Detroit. He and I hit it off, we sent a team up there to Detroit, a real team…top people…and we said, go study what we can do to help Detroit. We don’t want to throw good money at the bad, but we’ll use charitable money, we’ll track charity exactly the way we track everything else, and then we came up with an idea. They had 70,000 abandoned homes and they didn’t know where they were. So I said, let me just build a piece of software, any citizen can click on their home, geolocate, and then we can redevelop, redesign, refurbish. They need a special loan for refurbished houses, so very specific programs. And we decided to make a long-term sustainable effort around housing, infrastructure, entrepreneurs of the color fund. Five years and $250 million…that city is turning. There are tons of people helping, it’s not just JPMorgan. Hopefully, it’s an example of America at its best one day and not America at its worst. Still, a long way to go. Those lessons were taken everywhere. So all those things we do…advancing cities, work skills…those are global.”

One of the things you’ve talked about and we’ve got behind as an organization is the importance of the future workforce and redefining that. You talk about McDonald’s being the greatest job ever as a starter. How are we as an organization thinking about that future workplace?

“I love that commercial about McDonald’s being the greatest first job ever and the kids getting into a college. Think about society. We, in parts of society, have converted that starter job into something bad. That’s just a starter job. If you walk into a McDonalds or any fast food joint, the person who’s a branch manager…that’s how they started. There’s nothing wrong with a start. My grandfather, who came here at 19, never finished school, started as a busboy. He was happy to be in America, and happy to have a job. There was no such thing as healthcare. You got sick, you died. Somehow we’ve converted that into a bad thing. That’s just the first rung on that ladder. If you’re willing to work hard, learn, and take that career to the head of McDonald’s, or something like that. So I think we’ve got to change the whole narrative about that job. The best trainers in the world are McDonald’s and the military.

So this whole thing about skills to me, our failure, inner-city schools, half the kids don’t graduate, it’s generational, is both the education and the social needs they have around that. We have a national emergency in our cities. There may be a Barack Obama or an Albert Einstein that never gets educated. Our community colleges, our universities…our great universities brag about exports. The greatest export in America is they sell education, $50,000 a year, 300,000 kids, thats like $50 billion a year. You think the universities would take more responsibility for the cost. Why four years? Why not three? It was a blur for most of you anyway. Why don’t we work through the summers? Why don’t we have an apprenticeship one summer? Why don’t you do a year at home? Why can’t you reduce the cost? Why don’t they take responsibility for student loans? So we’ve failed. So community college is probably the best vocational trainers. The purpose of education is not to just teach you, but you lead with the livelihood.

There’s a thing Focus Hope in Detroit, these are people who didn’t finish high school. They could be ex-fellons, they could just be people who have never had a job and they’re 50-years-old, but they get there and I think they and 16 to 20 weeks of training, about 80 percent get a job at about $45,000 a year. Focus Hope teaches them the bus maps, how to show up on time, get some clothes that they needed, how to shake hands, how to do interviews, in addition to managing equipment, from big caterpillar equipment to smaller robotis, it’s all doable. The fact is that we just haven’t done it.

In Detroit, a smaller example, but the mayor has done an exceptional job. Chrysler is moving a plant there- 5,000 people. He says that all those jobs that they know they can hire from welders, robotics, that they know these kids are being properly trained. And businesses have to train the trainers, so we do it for tellers, by the way. We’re training tellers and since we’re there, they meet our standards, and so we hire them when they get out. So we need these pipelines. Apprenticeships, certified, community colleges, high schools, universities…so that we have a better pathway. 7 million open jobs in this country now. We have people in their own place and there are a lot of other reasons why we fail to fill those jobs, but that’s probably the biggest one.”

"There are days when I look in my dresser drawer and see that clipped tie and reflect on my journey."

Posted by JPMorgan Chase & Co. on Monday, September 23, 2019

One of the things you’re very passionate about is healthcare policy. It’d be great to hear your view as far as the work you’re doing to change that.

“That’s another thing where the train is coming down the tracks. It’s 18.5% of the GDP in America. It’s 9% for most other developed nations. Now if you paid an extra 9% and it all was a higher quality of life, actually that’s money well spent. People would live longer, you don’t have so much pain all the time, your kids get to live…that’s fabulous. But that isn’t the case. We do have some of the best in the world, pharma, medical devices, hospitals, surgeries…best in the world. People from all around the world come here and they need real help. But we also have 18.5% of GDP. Lack of transparency. You don’t even know what an MRI costs. MRIs can go from one hospital $700 to another place for $7,000.

We put in high deductibles, I’ll tell you a little bit about the heart of JPMorgan. We put high deductibles to make people shop, and we found out that it was such a hardship for lower-paid people. A lot of the higher paid people don’t pay attention to it. You’re going to hit your deductible, and you’re going to move on. But a lot of these lower-paid folks, most of these people make less than $60,000 a year, they couldn’t afford the $400 deductible for surgery or some out of pocket thing. So we actually reduced their out of pocket deductibles effectively to zero- if they do their wellness programs. So we’re kind of like Robin Hood. At the low end, we subsidize 90 to 95% of things, and at the high end, it’s closer to 60%.

It’s a real problem and if you look at the federal deficit, it’s a trillion dollars right now, but the increase is 100% medical entitlements. We better get cracking on this one…the sooner the better. Again the secret to the Berkshire Hathaway, JP Morgan, Amazon venture is long-term, sustained, top people involved, as opposed to looking for a quick hit. I don’t know if it’s going to work, but I’m absolutely convinced that it will at least pay for itself. We’re already doing a bunch of tests. We’re going to share with the world, by the way. We’re doing this to learn and to see better outcomes in cost, satisfaction, and health. It’s an amazing thing.”