I’m a day late on this, but I recommend Shawn Tully’s piece on new Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf. Scharf spent 25 years as a mentee of JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, and as Tully reports, once called him “the best leader I’ve ever seen.” The promotion makes Scharf part of a cadre of Dimon colleagues now running global financial companies—including Jes Staley of Barclays, Bill Winter of Standard Chartered and Frank Bisignano of First Data (recently purchased by Fiserv.)
For me, it also raises this question: has Dimon become the Jack Welch of our times? Welch was a unique business icon when he stepped down as CEO of General Electric in 2001, having bred an entire generation of industrial business leaders, including the three that vied to replace him—former 3M and Boeing CEO Jim McNerney, former Home Depot and Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli, and Welch’s successor, Jeff Immelt. A decade ago, having worked for Welch was the best credential an aspiring CEO could ask for.
Welch, of course, also loomed large because of his irrepressible penchant for speaking his mind; a trait he clearly shares with Dimon. And he was widely admired by his peers—also true of Dimon, who came out tops in our May poll asking Fortune 500 CEOs which of their peers they most admired. (Satya Nadella was second.) Dimon has also emerged as a leading voice for the new social conscience of business, pushing the Business Roundtable he heads to rewrite its corporate mission statement.
Dimon’s record, of course, is not without blemishes. A U.S. Senate investigation of the so-called “London Whale” knocked him for misleading investors and regulators as the whale’s losses skyrocketed. But in spite of that, he’s assumed a position of leadership in the business community that has, arguably, been vacant since Welch retired nearly two decades ago.
Disagree? Send your comments my way; I’ll happily share some Friday.
More news below.
The EU-U.S. Trade War
Tariffs on European imports into the U.S.—on $7.5 billion worth of goods, covering everything from aircraft to cheese and champagne—have been approved to begin October 18, following a WTO green light after the body ruled that subsidies for European planemaker Airbus were illegal. The tariffs open a new front in the U.S. trade war, just as the country is trying to negotiate a resolution with China. Fortune
Hong Kong to Ban Masks
Following the worst violence in 50 years on the island on Tuesday—amid China’s national day celebrations—Hong Kong’s leaders are planning to ban face masks, using a British colonial-era law dating from 1922. A meeting on Friday is expected to ban the masks, which protestors wear to protect themselves from tear gas and conceal their identities. Fortune
On Thursday, the U.K. appeared to tip into recession, as September PMI data tumbled to a six-month low, and services and construction data also fell. The gloom was felt beyond the U.K., though, as markets were wary after a rough Wednesday, when the rising threat of a Europe-U.S. trade war, panic over clashes in Hong Kong, and unresolved questions about Brexit combined to give the FTSE 100 its worst day since 2016. BBC / FT
Insurance Boss Attacks Draghi
Oliver Bäte, CEO of Allianz, Europe’s largest insurer, accused European Central Bank president Mario Draghi of “politicization” of monetary policy in the eurozone, by flooding the EU with cheap money in a way that has made it more difficult to make the fiscal reforms needed to address the region’s economic issues. “The reason why we’re not doing fiscal [reforms] is because you’re making it easy for people to spend money they don’t have,” Bäte said, addressing Draghi. FT
AROUND THE WATER COOLER
Making Money In Syria
As the Syrian war drags on and regular Syrians slide deeper into poverty, some of the country’s richest families are still living a gilded life: partying in Dubai clubs and traveling by Ferrari around France. But as Assad has taken control of more of the country, he is reorganizing Syria’s ‘rentier’ economy, steeped in political alliances and outright corruption, and even the old oligarchs may not be safe. FT
Starbucks Is Caught In the Middle
Starbucks’ storefronts are increasingly being tagged and defaced as Hong Kong protests escalate—collateral damage in the battle over control of the island territory. But they are also an example of the delicate balance international chains must walk as they weigh Hong Kong’s push for democracy against the opportunities in China’s growing market. Fortune
Silicon Valley and the Pentagon
In Silicon Valley, government defense contracts and big tech companies have frequently been at odds, with employees at Amazon and elsewhere protesting projects they see as stepping over the line. But Anduril, a tech company that has sometimes aligned itself with Trump loyalists, has no such qualms: the company now makes defense drones. Businessweek
What’s Going On At USA Swimming?
The U.S. Justice Department and the IRS are investigating USA Swimming for alleged business misconduct, possible tax violations—and accusations of sexual abuse. An investigation by the Wall Street Journal tracks reports that the Olympic organization used a complex network of financial tools to suppress sexual assault reports and prevent them from threatening its reputation, and its bottom line. The organization said it supported the government investigation but was “confident in the integrity of its finances and tax filings.” WSJ