JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Jamie Dimon said on Wednesday he regretted his remarks that the Wall Street bank would last longer than China’s Communist Party, moving quickly to avoid any longer-term fallout.
Dimon’s comments had risked jeopardizing JPMorgan’s growth ambitions in China where it won regulatory approval in August to become the first full foreign owner of a securities brokerage in the country. China experts in the United States said his quick apology may help ensure no serious damage was done.
“I regret and should not have made that comment,” Dimon said in a statement issued by the bank. ”I was trying to emphasize the strength and longevity of our company.”
In a later statement, Dimon said: “It’s never right to joke about or denigrate any group of people, whether it’s a country, its leadership, or any part of a society and culture. Speaking in that way can take away from constructive and thoughtful dialogue in society, which is needed now more than ever.”
Speaking at a Boston College JPMorgan Chase series of CEO interviews on Tuesday, Dimon said: “I made a joke the other day that the Communist Party is celebrating its 100th year – so is JPMorgan. I’d make a bet that we last longer.”
“I can’t say that in China,” he said. ”They are probably listening anyway.” He was speaking as part of a series of CEO interviews.
JPMorgan has been operating in China since 1921, the same year the Communist Party was founded there. It has branches in many Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.
In late 2019 the bank received approval to establish a majority-owned securities joint venture, offering brokerage, investment advisory and underwriting services. In August, the bank won regulatory approval from Beijing to wholly own the unit.
Full Foreign Owner
It is the first bank to become a full foreign owner of a securities brokerage in the country. Its other business interest in China include asset management and futures business.
Global executives typically choose their words carefully when discussing China, where foreign companies have occasionally been subject to backlashes for perceived offences.
In 2019, comments about pigs in China by a senior economist at UBS, perceived by some as a racist slur, caused an outcry and prompted one Chinese company to suspend all business ties with the Swiss bank.
The economist denied there was any offence meant and said he had been misinterpreted.
Dimon, meanwhile, repeated prior warnings to buyers about cryptocurrencies. “It is not really a currency,” Dimon said, calling them “crypto tokens” with no intrinsic value that have run up in price on speculation fueled by government stimulus payments.
“It is hysteria.”
In Boston, Dimon also said he expected inflation from supply chain issues will prove fleeting but expected that higher oil prices and wages would not go away.
Dimon estimated there is about a one-third chance that inflation would be slight enough to bring on moderate increases in market interest rates that do not push the economy into recession.
But he said there’s an equal chance that inflation will pick up and push the Federal Reserve to withdraw support for the economy, perhaps causing a mild recession.
US Inflation to Fade
He anticipates a percentage point or two of the recent 5% US inflation pace will fade as prices for items such as used cars and timber stop rising.
“There are other things which are probably not that transitory,” Dimon said. “I don’t think oil prices are going down.”
Dimon described the US economy as “booming”, adding: “Consumers and businesses are in good financial shape and there is still more monetary and fiscal stimulus coming.”
The JPMorgan boss made his quips less than a week after he made a surprise one-day visit to Hong Kong, becoming the first Wall Street banking boss to come to the Chinese territory since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.