Skip to main content

Outlier’s Path

Jamie Dimon at FF100

This past weekend, Founders Forum and Sequoia held FF100, which unites about one hundred of the most impactful founders across Europe and US for a restorative weekend of insightful roundtable discussions, breakout brainstorms, and candid fireside chats.

Roelof invited and interviewed Jamie Dimon for an engaging fireside chat. Jamie is Chairman and CEO of J.P. Morgan (JPM), the largest bank in the US by assets, and one of the most influential people in the global financial industry. You would expect him to arrive on time before his session and leave immediately after, but you would be incorrect.

Jamie arrived the night before to mingle and have drinks and dinner with conference attendees. Transitioning between drinks and dinner, he spotted Kate Ryder, founder & CEO of Maven. One of his daughters works for her and asked if he could have dinner at her table. While at dinner, Jamie was gracious, personable, opinionated, and funny. He was engaged the whole time. While some at the table were sporadically on their phones, Jamie focused on the people around him.

The next day, Jamie delivered a fantastic fireside chat with Roelof. Time flies when you listen to Jamie because he answers every question directly. Jamie and Roelof covered the global economy, innovation at JPM, AI’s societal impact, and leadership.

Jamie has a simple and decisive leadership style. When asked how he achieves the excellence he pushes for, his answers were straightforward and showed there is no shortcut to success:

  • You need to be relentless and responsive.
  • He is always taking notes on how to improve.
  • He still reads customer complaints – “a complaint is a gift.”
  • He gives employees and customers “a beer and immunity” to provide crucial information for improvement.
  • He tells his team how much he trusts, respects, and adores them.
  • He tells them the truth even when it is inconvenient.
  • He goes to international sales conferences every year and meets the team. He goes on a bus tour every year to meet the branch employees and their customers.
  • He’ll break his back for his team, and his door is always open.

JPM navigated through the 2008 financial crisis with fewer scars than the rest of the industry. JPM was critical in averting another crisis with SVB and First Republic. Jamie’s ability to connect with people from the bank teller to heads of state and navigate crucible moments is why the FF100 audience (and many others) asked if he would run our country.

None of the above is surprising. What is surprising is that Jamie stayed for the rest of the event. He said on stage that he “came to network and experience it so I can continue learning and meeting people.” He listened attentively and took notes during fireside chats. He sought out founders of neobanks during breaks to learn about their business. He attended the AI breakout session to soak up more knowledge about AI. Even when the conversation moved to data privacy and regulation, he listened more than he spoke.

“People say they don’t have time, but if you don’t have time to meet people who matter, you’re not running your life right.” Jamie’s advice is to take care of yourself: mind, body, spirit, friends, family, soul. He also advises having open space in the calendar. Finally, “if you are overwhelmed, it’s you, not the job…People work hard but not smart.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m going for a run and canceling a few meetings today.