Parsing JPMorgan's Latest Exec Shakeup (Meet Matt Zames)

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Reading the tea leaves of Jamie Dimon's periodic executive shakeups can be a tricky business, but on Friday Matt Zames became one of the stronger shapes to emerge from JPMorgan Chase's (JPM) latest shuffle.

Zames, a relatively unknown name before this year, was sent in to clean up the now-infamous chief investment office after its massive trading loss came to light this spring. He will become one of Dimon's right-hand men, sharing chief operating officer responsibilities with current chief administrative officer Frank Bisignano.

But of the two men, Zames appears to have received more power: Dimon gave him responsibility for JPMorgan's finance and regulatory affairs, meaning that Zames now will now oversee chief financial officer Doug Braunstein, who previously reported directly to Dimon.

"It's definitely good for Zames. He's been on a pretty solid upward trajectory and has come a long way in just a few quarters … and he's a young guy," says Jason Ware, an analyst with Salt Lake City-based Albion Financial Group, adding that Zames "had somewhat of an important role in trying to correct or realign the bank's priorities after the London Whale debacle."

That debacle is still resounding through JPMorgan and the industry, as regulators and observers continue to question how the bank could have misplaced billions of dollars in risky trading. But industry members on Friday called Dimon's sweeping management changes an effort to project confidence.

"The bank is still reeling from the fallout of the trading loss and they're trying to appear as though they're doing something about it," Ware said.

Ken Rich, a managing director in the financial services practice at recruiting firm Boyden, called Dimon's decision to reshuffle his managers "a smart, decisive move … to remind and assure the board as well as the public, the shareholders, that the bank has strong leadership."

He added that "it underscores the bank's bench strength" and highlights both Bisignano and Zames as new favorites in the succession game.

Dimon, 56, still appears to be playing the long version of that game, saying repeatedly on Friday that he hopes to remain CEO for "many, many more years."

But in elevating Zames, he also appears to be trying to rebuild some of JPMorgan Chase's burned bridges with regulators. The new co-COO is the chairman of the Treasury Department's Borrowing Advisory Committee, a group of bankers and investors that advises the agency.

Zames, 41, joined JPMorgan Chase in 2004 after stints at Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley, and was instrumental in the bank's takeover of Bear Stearns. He started as a trader at Long-Term Capital Management, the hedge fund that had to be bailed out in 1998.

Besides Zames and Bisignano, Mike Cavanagh and Daniel Pinto also appeared to advance in the JPMorgan succession sweepstakes after Friday's reshuffle, becoming co-CEOs of the corporate and investment bank. Current investment bank head and onetime heir apparent Jes Staley was promoted to chairman of that unit, in a role that appears to diminish his chances of succeeding Dimon.

Still, longtime JPMorgan watchers cautioned any of Dimon's new top executives against starting to think about redecorating his office.

"This is Jamie Dimon's MO, he liked to mix up his top lieutenants. … This is a healthy reshuffling move," FBR analyst Paul Miller said. "I'm sure he'll do this again in a year or two."

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Comments (1)
While Mr. Dimon continues to throw other people under the bus for the bank's missteps and give the illusion of change, could this latest management shake-up be an indication that he may be coming to the last of his 9 lives?
Posted by jim_wells | Monday, July 30 2012 at 7:56AM ET
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