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JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon Gives Students Frank Advice on Work and Life

Jamie Dimon (MBA 1982), CEO of JPMorgan Chase, returned to campus Thursday afternoon for his highly-anticipated annual address to students.  The charismatic leader with a slight New York accent commanded a captive student audience that filled three Aldrich classrooms.  True to his honest and laid-back style, Dimon almost immediately took questions after a few moments of informal remarks in the professor’s position in front of the blackboard.

In response to the first softball question on leadership, Dimon started by emphasizing the importance of listening to direct reports and treating all members of his large organization, from the CIO to the janitor, with humility.  Dimon also reflected on the guidance he received from his long-time mentor Sandy Weill, who convinced Dimon to work for him at American Express after business school.

The conversation quickly turned to current events and the economic environment as students asked Dimon about the competitiveness of the United States in the global economy.  “America still has the best economy, the best universities, best military, and the best businesses,” the New York City native declared.  On the other hand, Dimon admitted that he worried that this would no longer be the case if “we think we have the divine right to success” and pointed at policy deficiencies in the areas of energy, education, and immigration.

On the topic of politics, the CEO drew laughs by claiming, “Believe it or not, I’m still a democrat.”  Dimon acknowledged that his party’s “attitude toward the financial sector is not constructive” but he continues to donate large sums of money to democratic candidates for office.  Dimon was proud of his company’s reputation, noting JPMorgan’s efforts to be good citizens of the 100 countries in which it operates.

Drawing on the week’s theme of 50 years of women at HBS, an audience member inquired about Dimon’s thoughts on women in the workplace, namely his bank.  Dimon went on to say that it’s obviously a big added challenge to be an investment banker calling on clients all over the country as a woman who also wants to be very involved in raising her children.  He elaborated that there are many other jobs at his firm that can better accommodate people with family-centric schedules.

While this was one of many honest comments Dimon offered the audience during his hour-long Q&A session, perhaps the most applicable piece of advice to the audience concerned HBS academics: “Read the case.”  Spoken like a true Baker Scholar.

October 16, 2012
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