JPMorgan Chase CEO: Greece on right path to getting stronger
Greece is on the right path to economic recovery, as well as to becoming stronger and attracting foreign investments, Greek-American executive Jamie Dimon tells Kathimerini.
One of the most influential bankers in the United States right now, the CEO of the country’s biggest bank, JPMorgan Chase, has the ear of presidents, prime ministers and powerful businessmen all over the world. He is also the head of the exclusive Business Roundtable club.
Dimon recently met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whom he describes as “very strong,” and said that the investment climate in Greece is “surprisingly good, but unknown to most investors.”
After meeting with the country’s prime minister, how do you see the investment climate in Greece?
Greece has gone through a lot and made a tremendous amount of change. When you look at its surplus and its taxes, those are all good. The world is just learning about it and you’re starting to see it in lower bond rates and things like that. If [the government does] all the right things policy-wise, I think that you can see Greece turn and get stronger and stronger. You’re on that path but the hardest part about politics is staying on that path. And the citizens have to see some of the benefit. We’ve seen a lot of prime ministers do the right things, but the citizens don’t see it enough and they want to try something different. Now it’s around reducing bureaucracy, consistency of law, consistency of taxation, how foreign direct investment gets treated. And then governments have to make sure that gets shared with the people of Greece. And I think Greece can do that. Even in Argentina, which has had a very difficult time, we have a technology center of almost 3,000 people there. And I know that Greece educates a lot of very smart people. So if they can attract people like that, you can have foreign companies come in that start great technology centers. So there are always opportunities, if they’re properly addressed by the government and the people of the country.
I was really struck by your work in some of the distressed neighborhoods around Paris as part of the Advancing Cities initiative. How did you decide to do this?
There are distressed neighborhoods everywhere. And so when I first told people we’d be doing this in the slums of Paris, most people were shocked that there are slums in Paris. But they have the same problems as other places there. Kids in these neighborhoods aren’t getting the education they need at high school so they are job-ready. So what we’re doing in Paris is working with this great organization that trains kids in making things, from furniture to other things, with their hands. They graduate 5,000 a year and those kids, 90 percent of them get jobs, good-paying jobs. Now we’re going to graduate 10,000 a year. It’s a perfect example where a very targeted and focused effort can create a lot more jobs for people in a distressed neighborhood.
Are you thinking of doing something in Greece similar to what you’ve done in France or other places?
No, but whatever we do around skills and affordable housing, we do everywhere around the world. So I’m sure we’re doing something in Greece. I’m not exactly sure what it is today. I hope to make a trip there sometime soon and try to help in any way I can. You know, part of our job is to help lift up countries, lift up their businesses, educate the world about Greece, help facilitate foreign direct investment, and help your companies go out and compete around the world. There will be opportunities and I hope that I can be a small part to make it better for the Greeks.
The political situation in Washington is very polarized. Do you think that’s going to affect the United States’ standing in the long term?
I certainly hope not. If you look at American politics – if you look at all politics – we’ve always had ups and downs and polarization. It is more like an accordion, over five, 10, 15 or 20 years. I do think American leadership is critical and I think we’ve confused a lot of our allies. We should un-confuse them. We should stand very firm, be very clear. There are a lot of legitimate complaints. You hear legitimate complaints about the World Trade Organization and about NATO, and they should be fixed. Hopefully we will have more stability going forward and a more certain American foreign policy.
You were thinking at some point of running for president. Why did you decide not to do it? Why is it that good people, talented people, don’t get involved in politics these days?
Now, I said I thought about thinking about it. I had one conversation and I decided to drop it. I think it would be quixotic for me to do it. I think you might think a CEO can do it and maybe there’re some common skills between a CEO and a politician, but I think there are a lot of not common ones. You know, a CEO is not used to what I call retail politicking, standing at town hall with union members. Most people who’ve been successful politicians, they’ve been in that ring for a while. They practiced those skills. I just don’t think it’s suitable. I think it’s very difficult. I think we destroy our politicians too. I think we make their lives almost impossible and that’s not just the United States, that’s generally around the world. And it hurts their families. So there are a lot of reasons it doesn’t make sense. I love what I do. I think I can do a lot of positive things from this very seat.
There’s a lot of political and social turmoil around the world right now, from Chile to the UK and Hong Kong. How do you explain it? Is there a deeper cause behind it?
I think, yes, a little bit. We did have a financial crisis and we’ve had a lot of other issues around the world. Income inequality, I think, is true. In Europe and the United States, for example, growth has been too slow and not enough people have benefited from the growth that has taken place. So I think you’ve had this growth in populism; either it’s nationalism or, you know, ideology on the left to try to maybe solve some of these problems. And, of course, we blame immigration sometimes or technology. I think it’s much more to do with our own public policy, how all of our countries can make policies that actually are better for the citizens and the country in general.
I know that you’re very involved in public policy. Do you think the private sector can do something about these kinds of problems?
I think they have to. If you look at the solution, it’s not going to only come from government. It should come from the private sector where they can help, working with civic society. That could be schools, hospitals, not-for-profits. What we need, though, is jobs. Well, businesses create 85 percent of the jobs in the world and different parts of the world need different jobs. It might be coding over here or welding over there. Businesses can help create infrastructure. They can help have rational regulatory policies so that you can create more small business formations. And you know, when we look at it, we only see things working when there’s collaboration. We really don’t see it work very well when business and government and civic society are fighting each other all the time.