But one thing is clear: Dimon's got his hands full. And his biggest headache is Bank One's credit card unit, First USA. It earned only $70 million in the first quarter, compared with $303 million in the first three months of 1999, and that was considered a bad quarter. The outlook remains gloomy for the rest of the year, when the unit is projected to earn $1 billion less than in 1999. The biggest challenge will be to retain customers, and that will mean reducing interest charges and fees.The rest of Bank One's franchise is basically okay, but profits are likely to come under pressure as interest rates rise and as the credit cycle begins taking its toll.Dimon's greatest strength has been in investment banking, and Bank One has had little experience-and still less infrastructure-in that area. Dimon is a charismatic figure and has a lot of stature in the highest-end scale of commercial/investment banking, but Bank One's relatively low stock price makes it impossible for him to purchase a big name in investment banking. Even Chase Manhattan Corp., which has been highly profitable and whose stock has been selling at a higher multiple than most commercial banks, can't afford to buy a top-notch Wall Street firm.So, Dimon has been evaluating his options and focusing on getting to know his team. In his first two months on the job he's visited staff in six key Bank One markets.For most of his career, Dimon has worked under the wings of his mentor, Sanford Weill, CEO of Citigroup. From what Dimon is reported to have told friends, friction between the two grew as Dimon's charisma began attracting increasing attention both within and outside Citigroup. Now he's on his own, and his mettle is truly being tested.
Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.
No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.
Have an account? Sign In