JPMorgan Chase CEO Says Let’s Make a Deal to Competitors

The CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co, Jamie Dimon, recently reminded the world that he and his bank are in acquisition mode.

“If you’ve got brilliant ideas, give me a call,” Dimon, the chief executive officer of the biggest U.S. bank, said at a conference Tuesday. “Bring us your idea. You’ll get the fee even if you are a competitor investment bank.”

Dimon said to investors back in February that JPMorgan Chase was actively looking at acquisitions across its businesses. The CEO remarked then that the bank was willing to purchase anything except another U.S. bank.

Not Allowed to Acquire U.S. Banks

The bank is restricted by regulators from buying back stock because of the COVID-19 pandemic and from acquiring any deposit-taking institution in the U.S. because of its size. As a result, observers believe that the Wall Street giant could look to expand in commercial banking outside its domestic market.

When asked if he’d take a look at a European lender, Dimon replied that it doesn’t make much sense for the world’s most profitable bank to add branches in such a fiercely competitive market—a market where returns are not even 50% of what JPMorgan makes.

JPMorgan Jamie Dimon
Jamie Dimon

As a realistic option, Dimon is reportedly exploring the creation of a digital bank in the U.K. He may even try to acquire an upstart British challenger, Starling Bank, according to media reports. However, this would be a minor acquisition.

Experts said that in Asia, acquiring a lender like Standard Chartered Plc might drive JPMorgan into higher-growth emerging markets. However, assuming the balance-sheet risk and the difficulty in integrating vastly different business cultures would be difficult even without a pandemic.

In other regions, it doesn’t jive to expand the bank’s capital-intensive investment banking businesses. That’s because there’s only so much growth the firm can leverage to use its great reserves.

In the next year, it’s thought that investment bank activity will scale down after a big 2020. The industry will continue to be fragmented, but JPMorgan’s dominant trading unit already possesses an outsize share of many markets. Hedge funds and other big investors may have concerns about additional exposure to one firm.

What are Dimon’s Other Options?

This all leaves Dimon and JPMorgan Chase & Co with two natural areas of expansion: fintech and asset management.

The pandemic has driven the demand for digital payments. It’s a segment Dimon regrets not having bolstered more quickly.

The bad news for the CEO is that skyrocketing fintech valuations mean that any large-scale acquisition would be costly. For instance, shares in Square Inc. have increased more than 500% since March. And PayPal Holdings Inc.’s 78% price rise since February and JPMorgan’s 11% decline has narrowed the valuation gap between the two from about $285 billion to almost $120 billion.

JPMorgan Chase Must Keep Up With Its Rivals

It may need to do so to keep pace with its rival Morgan Stanley. That company recently closed a big deal: takeover of E*Trade Financial Corp. Plus, Morgan Stanley recently announced a second: the $7 billion purchase of asset manager Eaton Vance Corp.

Not making headlines, JPMorgan announced a minor purchase recently, the purchase of fintech company 55ip. This moves the bank into a position to broaden its offerings to financial advisers.

Dimon said that there could be more to come.

“Morgan Stanley’s done a good job with a couple of deals they’ve done,” he said. “So asset management, my line is open. It’s a scaled business, a distribution business, a brand business. It’s got to make sense.”

Dimon says that he anticipates the Biden administration’s regulators to tighten their grip on banks; nonetheless, he said he thinks the government would be “very open” to JPMorgan doing a deal in several industries or regions.

“It might be software. Perhaps fintech. It might be something overseas,” he said. “We’re open-minded.”

In other JPMorgan Chase news, Dimon said the bank’s trading and investment-banking businesses are each looking to generate 20% more revenue in Q4 than they did in the same period in 2019. That would place its trading revenue at $5.9 billion, highlighting a record year for the group.