Jamie Dimon may not have attended the public forum on "too big to fail" earlier this week. But he used his annual letter to shareholders to weigh in on the issue.
The outspoken chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase said Wednesday that turning banks into public utilities would encourage "irresponsible lending."
The comments provide the latest clash in the increasingly heated debate over the future of megabanks. The debate has gained steam in recent months, in part because of recent comments from Neel Kashkari, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
Kashkari shocked much of the financial world, in a policy speech last month when he said that banks – like utilities – should be required to hold "so much capital they virtually can't fail."
Dimon strongly rejected the argument in his letter to investors.
"There is nothing about banking that remotely resembles a utility," he wrote.
Dimon said that banks simply have a different relationship with their customers than utilities do, noting that they are "more like partners" in their clients' affairs.
Unlike utilities, they also have obligation to turn away customers who are deemed not creditworthy. Doing so is crucial to a well-functioning economy, he said.
"This does not always create friends, but it is critical for appropriate lending and proper functioning of markets," Dimon said. "Banks have to continuously make judgments on risk, and appropriately price for it."
Dimon also reiterated his defense of JPMorgan's size and scope. He noted that only large, multifaceted companies like JPMorgan could provide services such as international payments to the industry's smaller players.
"This is a story of symbiosis among our banks rather than a binary choice between big and small," Dimon wrote.
Additionally, Dimon used the letter to highlight the JPMorgan's recent investments in technology. Notably, the company has begun working on new ways to limit how outside parties – such as data aggregators and payment companies – access customer information, he said.
JPMorgan and other banks last year blocked access to sites such as Mint.com and Yodlee, amid concerns about data privacy.
You can read a copy of the letter here.