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Morning Coffee: the JPMorgan banker who doesn’t want Jamie Dimon’s job. The AI robot that could save your career.

Among the things that the New Year will bring are another couple of ticks on the clock for Jamie Dimon’s five year retention bonus, and consequently the opportunity for a few more rounds of speculation about succession. Surveying the top executives of JPM seems to suggest that nothing much has changed since the last round of speculation – Dan Pinto is the emergency candidate, Mariane Lake and Jennifer Piepszak are the top two most likely successors, but Jamie’s nowhere near the exit door yet and might not even leave at the end of the period. 

There are, however, a few more interesting details, particularly that Piepszak has apparently “privately told several people that she isn’t sure she wants the job” at various points in the past, although she’s apparently told them more recently that she does. Mariane Lake, for her part, has apparently taken calls from recruiters trying to fill other top jobs, and interviewed at both Wells Fargo and PayPal.

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We probably shouldn’t read too much into this.  No matter how ambitious you are or how happy in your current job, it’s simple common sense to consider outside roles occasionally – if nothing else, you often get material insight into how the competition are thinking.  And similarly, there are plenty of contexts in which it might be considered polite or sensible to say that you’re not absolutely obsessed with getting the CEO’s job, particularly when he’s not actually announced a retirement date.

Of course, Piepszak and Lake are not really the first people to be in this position.  There’s quite a long and illustrious list of former front runners to succeed to this throne, who are now at hedge funds, private equity or other banks.  They either got tired of the wait, or got cold feet at the idea of stepping into the biggest boots on the Street.  JP Morgan has been the House of Dimon for so long that it’s quite hard to imagine it under anyone else’s leadership.

But nothing lasts forever. And there’s a danger that the uncertainty could become increasingly destabilising to the bank. The key to Dimon’s time at the top has always been his broad and deep understanding of all the business lines. If any of the internal candidates are going to come close to matching that, they will need to be switched about a bit over the next couple of years. Lake and Piepszak haven’t really run any major investment banking business units, while some of the other possibilities (like global markets head Troy Rohrbaugh) might need exposure to retail banking.

And those business lines have their own management, who are largely doing a pretty good job. It’s not easy to explain to a senior banker that they have a new boss who’s mainly there to tick off a resume point. JPM insiders talking to Bloomberg point out that there would have been an opportunity to move a CEO contender to the investment bank when Carlos Hernandez retired as its executive chair, but nobody thought it was the right move at the right time. 

The post-Dimon era will be a huge change for JP Morgan, and there’s no getting away from that. What must be worrying the bank, though, is the possibility that management energy is going to get diverted by people wanting to position themselves for it, just at a time when the banking franchise is doing really well.

Elsewhere, management consultancies are planning to use Artificial Intelligence to save people’s jobs rather than replacing them. The idea, according to Stevans Rolls, the chief talent officer of Deloitte, is to smooth out the swings in the hiring cycle (so you don’t have mass layoffs the year after a record graduate intake), and to “evaluate existing staffers’ skills and map out plans that would shift employees away from quieter parts of the business and into roles that are more in demand”.

Which is fine as far as it goes, but… wouldn’t things like planning staffing levels and guiding people’s careers to take account of their skills and client demand be just normal management? This feels less like a new application for artificial intelligence and more like evidence of demand for a bit of the old fashioned kind.

Meanwhile…

Perhaps one reason that consultancy firms are thinking about using AI is that the job losses have reached the partner level; and apparently this isn’t just at EY where it might be blamed on the demerger. It seems that they have massively overhired, and that the deal drought has hit revenues for them harder than the banks. (Financial News)

Citigroup underlines that there are some things it’s committed to growing, even while it’s cutting staff overall. The plan to set up a fully-licensed subsidiary in China is still going ahead, even though the difficulty of complying with local data protection laws mean it will be delayed by more than a year. (Bloomberg)

Lots of “pod shop” hedge funds have tended to hit a “speed bump” as they grow faster than they can manage; firms like Eisler, Walleye and Boothbay are hoping it won’t happen to them (Business Insider)

Apparently the practice of coming into the office so that your security badge records compliance with the remote working policy, but then going straight back to finish the day’s work from home is called “coffee badging”. Financial historians might remember that in London, there used to be such a thing as “Vospering”, after a client whose offices were conveniently located next to a train station making them convenient to arrange a meeting with in mid-afternoon. (NY Post)

Millennium moved out of their old offices in Mayfair to accommodate growth – now they’re moving back into the same offices, after the landlord refurbished and expanded them. (Bloomberg)

Not looking good for Tingo; the fintech’s founder has been charged with “massive fraud”, after a Hindenberg report and some newspaper investigations. (FT)

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AUTHORDaniel Davies Insider Comment

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