JPMorgan CEO is 'cautiously pessimistic' on economy, successors in focus

Published 05/20/2024, 06:49 AM
Updated 05/20/2024, 07:20 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view of the exterior of the JP Morgan Chase & Co. corporate headquarters in New York City May 20, 2015.  REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
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By Nupur Anand and Lananh Nguyen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon told investors the bank's succession plans were underway, while warning investors on Monday about risks to the economic outlook.

The Wall Street firm's shares closed almost 4% lower after Dimon told a New York gathering of investors that the bank will practice restraint on share repurchases and that he no longer sees a five-year timeline on succession.

Dimon, 68, has helmed the bank for more than 18 years, outlasting many other industry chiefs. In previous years, he had answered questions about succession by saying he would stay five more years.

On Monday, he cited a roster of senior JPMorgan executives with a deep knowledge of its major businesses who could take over.

"We're on the way, we're moving people around," Dimon said. "The timetable is not five years anymore."

JPMorgan's board recently identified Jennifer Piepszak and Troy Rohrbaugh, co-CEOs of its commercial and investment bank, as candidates for the top job. Marianne Lake, CEO of consumer and community banking, and Mary Erdoes, CEO of asset and wealth management, are also in the running.

Several executives who served under Dimon have gone on to run other major financial institutions, making his succession plans a longtime subject of speculation.

"We attribute today's weakness (in shares) to a lack of interest to buy back stock at current prices and a shorter CEO transition timeline," David George, an analyst at Robert W. Baird, wrote in a note.

JPMorgan's stock closed at a record high on Friday after rising nearly 15% this year, broadly in line with an S&P index of bank shares.

Dimon said the high price would deter stock buybacks.

On the economic outlook, he said he was "cautiously pessimistic," citing geopolitical tensions and persistent inflation.

Despite those concerns, the biggest U.S. lender raised its forecast for what it would earn from interest payments.

Net interest income (NII), or the difference between what the bank makes on loans and pays out on deposits, is expected to rise to $91 billion this year, excluding its markets division. That is above a previous forecast of $89 billion in April.

JPMorgan's earlier outlook had disappointed analysts who expected greater benefits from higher borrowing costs.

NOISY NET INTEREST INCOME

Chief Financial Officer Jeremy Barnum told investors that net interest income will probably be "noisy" in the coming quarters, with increases and declines, Barnum said.

The U.S. economy is headed for a soft landing that avoids a major downturn, but the bank is prepared for risks that could derail this projection, JPMorgan President Daniel Pinto said.

"Clearly, there are uncertainties."

JPMorgan acquired billions in loans through its purchase of collapsed lender First Republic last May. The takeover helped propel profits to a record high.

The new guidance "reaffirms JPM's positioning as a continued beneficiary from higher for longer (interest rates) and will be viewed positively for the stock," even though it was expected by some investors, Ebrahim Poonawala, a banking analyst at Bank of America, wrote in a note.

JPMorgan estimated its second-quarter investment banking revenue will grow by a percentage in the mid-teens, citing improved market conditions and a healthy outlook for deals. Revenue in markets will climb by a mid-single-digit percentage, it said.

JPMorgan has the largest market share of U.S. account holders among the nation's lenders, holding 11.3% of retail deposits, and wants to expand further.

"We aim to cover 75% of the U.S. population within an accessible drive time and to ensure we serve more Americans in smaller cities, America's heartland," said Jennifer Roberts, CEO of consumer banking at Chase.

"We are setting a new objective of covering over 50% of the population in each of the 48 states."

In overseas markets, China remains in focus.

"If you're going to be a global investor today, you have to have on-the-ground research in China," Erdoes said.

"It does matter that you understand the forces and dynamics that are happening in China," she said, noting that Dimon and other top executives will be in China later this week for an annual conference hosted by the bank.

Technology spending is expected to rise to $17 billion this year from $15.5 billion in 2023, Barnum said.

Some of that budget is focused on artificial intelligence, which Dimon has previously said could be as transformative as the steam engine, electricity or the internet.

"It's going to change every job," Dimon said on Monday.

Implementing AI could add about $1 billion to $1.5 billion in value, Pinto said, without elaborating.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A view of the exterior of the JP Morgan Chase & Co. corporate headquarters in New York City May 20, 2015.  REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Total expenses are expected to rise to about $92 billion in 2024 from $85.7 billion last year, according to a presentation.

Separately, the bank plans to increase stock buybacks to return excess capital to shareholders, but will stay cautious, Barnum said.

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