Jamie Dimon once again spoke out for the banking industry on Monday, simultaneously admitting mistakes and waving the banner for banks and the good he says they do.
"We should make one big mistake every year and then fix it," the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase (JPM) told an audience at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. Dimon was talking about the bank's efforts to improve its customer service, but the remark could easily apply to the London Whale trading losses that JPMorgan Chase spent the past year trying to fix.
Part of that rehabilitation has included an extended speaking tour for Dimon, always one of the most charismatic and outspoken Wall Street CEOs. Since December, Dimon has made splashy appearances at events in New York and Switzerland, weighing in on everything from monetary policy to industry regulation. His topics Monday included the difference between Florida and New York state taxes.
"We're in New York, and we don't get supported by anybody," Dimon told the audience, complaining about the tax rates in his company's home state. "You should be asking me, 'Why don't you come on down to Miami'?"
The charm offensive appeared to work. "Your wisdom is so refreshing," one audience member told Dimon as a prelude to a question.
Relaxed in a jacket and no tie, Dimon fielded audience questions for about twenty minutes. He criticized "big dumb banks" that "virtually brought the country down to its knees." (Presumably he did not include JPMorgan Chase, now the country's biggest bank, in that assessment.)
He faintly praised the Federal Reserve's efforts to keep interest rates low: "It's a medicine that maybe kept the patient alive, but will have aftereffects."
He argued that the age to receive Social Security benefits should be raised, pointing out that the system was created at a time of lower life expectancy. "FDR wasn't a complete idiot," Dimon, who now calls himself "barely a Democrat," said of the Democratic president who created Social Security.
JPMorgan Chase is trying to improve its customers' satisfaction by aping the style of community banks in its branches, and by emphasizing mobile banking and other technology, he said. He told the audience that the bank is testing technology that will recognize customers when they walk into a branch.
Dimon also reiterated a defense he has previously made about the banking industry's lobbying efforts. He both pointed out that all sorts of businesses and interests lobby the government, and defended doing so as an exercise of First Amendment rights.