Dimon: JPMorgan would be better if kept together

Chisel Split Ice

"The views and the facts are completely different, OK?" Dimon said, after being asked about a breakup.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon doesn't want a breakup.

Dimon expressed that sentiment in response to a bevy of analyst questions about the future of the big bank's business model amid onerous new regulations highlighting the government's perceived views that JPMorgan is still too big to fail.

"The views and the facts are completely different, OK?" Dimon said, after being asked whether the bank's efforts to build its capital base will still fail if the government's ultimate intent is to break up the bank.

Dimon recounted again that JP Morgan was able to absorb failing banks Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual during the financial crisis, and that its balance sheet is even stronger now: It has more capital and less credit exposure and risk as a percentage of the balance sheet, more long-term debt and more liquid assets.

"When [regulators] talk about risk, they're mostly talking about size," Dimon continued. "They look at size, and it scares them."

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In December, Federal Reserve officials suggested JP Morgan was the only bank that would need additional capital-some $20 billion, they estimated-to meet strict new rules. That claim further fueled the debate over whether the firm would benefit from splitting into multiple banks, rather than one large institution that requires a massive capital cushion that may divert funds from shareholder returns.

Goldman Sachs analyst Richard Ramsden went so far this month as to crunch the numbers on a potential split, calculating that upside for shareholders could be as high as 25 percent if the bank were to split in two or more pieces.

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Both Dimon and Lake repeatedly rejected the idea, acknowledging the operating model at present allows for a lot of cost and revenue sharing. But Nancy Bush of NAB Research persisted, saying that Washington still viewed JPMorgan as a threat to the financial system, and asked what they would do if it appeared regulators' real intention was a death-by-a-thousand-cuts to the big bank model.

Dimon seemed to acknowledge there was a possibility that was true: "If the regulators at the end of the day want JPMorgan to be split up, then that's what will have to happen. We can't fight the federal government if that's their intent."

In the meantime, he said he'd be willing to run the business for shareholders as is.

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"We think we can earn a superior return, still, versus other banks. Carry the capital and modify our business model over time without taking drastic action," Dimon said. "We may have to be slightly smaller we might otherwise have been, but so be it."

And despite the hit shareholders may take on the legal and regulatory front as the bank reaches compliance, Dimon wasn't shy about his ambition for growth when there's light at the end of the tunnel.

"I want [JP Morgan's $230B market cap] to be $500 billion in 10 years," he said.

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