Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan, Speaks at Fuqua
It is said that everyone gets something unique out of business school. For some, a new career is on the horizon, while others are just looking to learn. However, one of the universally appealing aspects of business school is the lack of a proper dress code. There are few times in one’s life where it’s acceptable to show up to a meeting in a pair of basketball shorts. But as we learned today, it’s possible to be successful and casually dressed, as a denim-clad Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan, descended on campus to dish about topics facing the financial world.
But, truth be told, Mr. Dimon’s informality extended well beyond his attire; his first order of business, after stating his Duke credentials, was to ask the crowd what topics were important to them right now. It was a welcome departure, and as far as I’m concerned, it was tremendous insight into the way a CEO thinks.
His discussion was, at times, frank and certainly not the company line, but the spontaneity of it all demonstrated the broad array of topics in which a CEO must be conversant to have a firm grip on all the things that can go wrong. JP Morgan may be one of Wall Street’s most enduring and respected banks, but most of the conversation revolved around economic events around the world, ranging from the growth of the Chinese economy to tensions in the Middle East, and how each of these concerns affected his bank, and the American people. His command of such varied subjects, it seems, is a must-have for today’s CEO: they’ve become such public figures, under the lens of an unrelenting media, and as a representative of their shareholders and employees (250,000 in Mr. Dimon’s case), they have constituencies relying on them to make informed decisions and to understand all the trends that may impact their business in the future.
Though it was a fairly atypical speech from a CEO, in many ways, for some reason, I couldn’t help but feel like I had heard much of this before. I was unable to place it at first. Mr. Dimon showed himself to be a real renaissance man, but I think what distinguishes Fuqua from many of its competitors is that he wasn’t the only one in the room. It’s hard to identify Fuqua as a Marketing School or Finance School, and I believe that’s because our curriculum is tailored to a cross-disciplinary understanding of the world, and, it seems, we’ve built a student body to match that. The informal discussion with Mr. Dimon was actually not that different from some of the classes we have. The hope, I suppose, is that someday we’ll be able to leverage the vast knowledge we’ve pooled together from our teammates, and eventually relay some insight to an auditorium full of eagerly waiting MBAs.