Jamie Dimon succession race has two women ahead of pack at JP Morgan

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon (Photo: Reuters)
The race to the financial world’s most prized throne -- Jamie Dimon’s perch atop JPMorgan Chase & Co. -- is drawing closer to its long-awaited conclusion.

When the largest U.S. bank last shook up its leadership two years ago, about a half-dozen names appeared on lists of Dimon’s potential heirs. But another overhaul announced Tuesday pushed two women toward the front of the field: Marianne Lake and Jennifer Piepszak.

The bank named them co-heads of its massive consumer and community banking business, a spot that was held by one of Dimon’s two lieutenants, co-President Gordon Smith, who’s retiring at the end of the year. The remaining co-president, Daniel Pinto, is widely seen as the obvious replacement for Dimon in an emergency, but as a less likely candidate in a slow and orderly handoff to the next generation.

The bank’s board has asked Dimon to remain in his role for a significant number of years, JPMorgan spokesman Joe Evangelisti said Tuesday. That could mean another half-decade or so, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

“This time does feel different,” said Wells Fargo & Co. analyst Mike Mayo of the promotions. “One of the new two heads of consumer is likely the ultimate next CEO of JPMorgan.”

Jennifer Piepszak. Photo: Bloomberg

Nobody in global banking is more prominent than Dimon, who was instrumental in building two Wall Street powerhouses -- Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan -- and has served as the industry’s voice since navigating the 2008 financial crisis and setting profit records. Since taking the helm of JPMorgan at the end of 2005, he has disappointed many would-be heirs by making a running joke out of periodically announcing plans to stay another five years. Even now, at 65, he hasn’t said what year he might step down.

Lake, 51 and familiar to the bank’s investors as its former chief financial officer, has long been seen as a potential successor. She got a crack at running a major business line in 2019 when Dimon put her in charge of consumer lending, a group of businesses that generate about a fourth of the company’s revenue.

Piepszak, also 51, has been charting a relatively rapid ascent, raising her profile with shareholders when she succeeded Lake as finance chief two years ago and joined the bank’s operating committee. She previously led JPMorgan’s credit-card business for two years and earlier oversaw financing operations for the mortgage business during a period in which it faced a host of crisis-era settlements with regulators. She came up through JPMorgan’s investment-banking operations and jumped to the consumer business in 2010.

Marianne Lake. (Photo: Bloomberg)

Lake is “extremely well-known to investors, and now she has even more business-line experience, so she has to be considered a frontrunner,” said Mayo. But Piepszak “is a person on the move too.”

Lake will run payments, commerce and lending, which includes credit cards, home lending and auto financing, Smith wrote in a letter to staff. Piepszak will lead consumer and business banking, as well as wealth management.

Both women have already been tested by the bank’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lake oversaw the bank’s lending to households during a year in which millions of Americans lost jobs or work -- at least temporarily -- forcing them to juggle bills as Congress argued over rounds of stimulus payments.

And Piepszak’s overseen the New York-based bank’s finances as corporations and other clients raced to draw down credit lines, tapped markets and stockpiled deposits to get through the turmoil. It was ultimately a period in which Wall Street thrived, helping lead JPMorgan to a series of earnings records.

Dimon announced the promotions as JPMorgan shareholders held their annual meeting, and a week before he and other U.S. banking CEOs are set to testify to Congress. In past appearances, the group has been grilled by lawmakers over the industry’s slow progress in elevating women and diversifying its leadership.

Among the six biggest U.S. banks, only Citigroup has ever named a woman CEO. And in that case the milestone was reached only this year, when Jane Fraser took over.

In other management changes announced Tuesday Jeremy Barnum, 48, will succeed Piepszak as CFO.

Smith, 62, has overseen JPMorgan’s sprawling consumer bank for almost a decade, and in 2018 he added the titles of co-president and co-chief operating officer -- both roles that he shared with Pinto, 58. Last year, Smith and Pinto took over as acting co-CEOs when Dimon was sidelined with emergency heart surgery just as the Covid-19 pandemic was erupting across the U.S.

Still, even when he was promoted to co-president and co-COO, Smith wasn’t considered among Dimon’s likeliest heirs. While Smith and Pinto could -- and ultimately did -- step in during Dimon’s health emergency, candidates including Lake were potentially stronger contenders for an orderly handoff, a person familiar with the board’s thinking said at the time.

Smith joined JPMorgan in 2007 from American Express Co., where he spent more than 25 years, to run the credit-card services business. That gives him the rare distinction of having served alongside Dimon during the 2008 financial crisis.

If Dimon stays another half-decade, Pinto would be on-hand to step in were another emergency to arise, and he would otherwise be expected to help prepare the next generation of leaders. And if Dimon were to unexpectedly accelerate his exit, Pinto would still be a potential candidate to replace him.

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