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In Conversation with Laban Jackson

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JPMorgan Chase & Co. has frequently made headlines since news of the London Whale broke. In a candid interview with Jeffrey M. Cunningham, managing director and senior advisor of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), Director and Audit Chairman Laban Jackson shares how the company is navigating current challenges and preparing for future ones.

The London Whale Investigation

Jackson noted that one of the root causes of the London Whale was tied to culture. “The culture totally broke down,” he explained. “The real culture at JPMorgan–or at any great company–is if you have a problem and you raise your hand, it becomes everyone’s problem. If you don’t raise your hand, it’s your problem.”

On CEO Jamie Dimon

“Jamie Dimon is the best manager I’ve ever seen, and I’m old,” Jackson said. “He has absolute integrity.” Jackson went on to note that Dimon is human and has flaws as every human being does.

“One thing to do as a director–and I didn’t learn this early enough–the first job you have is to get the CEO right. The second is to get the next CEO right,” Jackson explained. “But while you have that CEO, figure out his or her flaws and help them with them.”

Ramifications of the London Whale

The board fired five people and clawed back $100 million and cut the CFO and CEO salaries in half. “We wanted to get the respect back of the people at the company,” Jackson said.

When asked by the Council of Institutional Investors if JPMorgan had done enough, “We said well, we can’t shoot ’em,” Jackson said.

Big Enough to Succeed?

In a business where the motto is often “go big or go home,” laws and regulation play key roles in ensuring companies are operating in an effective manner. Some regulations, however, may be difficult for companies that do not have the same scale as JPMorgan to comply with.

“We move trillions [of dollars] a day in and out of JPMorgan in 156 countries,” Jackson said. “I don’t know many companies that can do that. If big banks are broken up, I don’t know who can do this.”

Around the World

Jackson spends several weeks a year visiting JPMorgan offices across the globe and meeting with regulators. He notes that he has started meeting with up-and-coming JPMorgan employees: “I learn so much from them–it has been a wonderful thing for me.”