Whenever Wall Street muses on who may someday replace Jamie Dimon atop JPMorgan Chase & Co., Marianne Lake’s name arises. For six years, she’s guided analysts and investors through the firm’s business as its chief financial officer.
Now, Jennifer Piepszak is taking that stage, becoming CFO and joining a cadre of senior JPMorgan executives viewed as Dimon’s potential successors. Lake, too, is gaining experience that will further groom her to perhaps become the next chief executive officer.
The largest U.S. bank announced Wednesday it’s shuffling responsibilities for two of its top female executives: While Piepszak becomes finance chief and joins JPMorgan’s operating committee, Lake will take over as head of consumer lending. The changes take effect May 1.
Even though JPMorgan is probably still years away from selecting its next leader, this week’s changes put it ahead of just about every major U.S. rival in positioning a slate of women to potentially take over. The pair of executives, both 49, are each getting new opportunities to bolster skills they’d need to lead the whole company. Another woman, Mary Erdoes, already leads the firm’s asset management division. None of the six largest U.S. banks has ever elevated a woman to CEO.
“This is historic” for JPMorgan and the industry, said Jeanne Branthover, a managing partner at executive-search firm DHR International.
“Women in the C-suite at the top financial services firms have not at all equaled the men,” she said. “This move exemplifies the willingness to put the best talent in the right job.”
Lake’s new role at JPMorgan will include heading up the cards unit Piepszak led as well as home lending and auto finance. That will give her oversight for businesses that produce about a quarter of the company’s revenue. Lake will remain on the operating committee, the bank’s top leadership group.
“It is part of succession planning that you’re going to see us moving people around,” Dimon said in a Fox Business interview Thursday. “Move people around, give them different experiences, see what they’re really good at.”
Cards, Home Lending
Just last week, U.S. lawmakers questioned Dimon at a hearing alongside other bank CEOs, pressing them on whether a woman or member of a minority group might someday succeed them. Dimon kept his hand down when asked if that’s likely, but later told analysts he had misunderstood the question.
His successor “may very well be a woman,” Dimon said on a conference call Friday to discuss the company’s earnings. “It really depends on the circumstance of the time, and it might be different if it’s one year from now versus five years from now.”
A year ago, Dimon said he plans to hold his post for five more years. He handed off some responsibilities to lieutenants Daniel Pinto, 56, and Gordon Smith, 60. Lake, Erdoes and commercial bank chief Doug Petno have been pointed to as the most likely successor candidates if Dimon sticks to that timeline, in part because they’re younger.
Dimon said many of the 11 executives on the firm’s operating committee could potentially replace him. There’s also external demand. Lake’s name has appeared on lists of executives who could theoretically take over at Wells Fargo & Co., which is searching for a new CEO.
“If I were them, I’d be looking for the best people in the world, and I think we’ve got some of them, so of course I always worry that we’re at risk of losing people,” Dimon said in the Fox Business interview.
What Bloomberg Intelligence Says
“Marianne Lake’s move to head JPMorgan’s consumer unit should silence speculation that she might move to Wells Fargo.”
— Alison Williams, banks analyst
Piepszak took over as CEO of card services in February 2017, six months after the bank introduced its popular Sapphire Reserve card. Last year, the bank added roughly 8 million credit-card accounts, bringing its total number of active accounts to about 40 million, according to an investor presentation in February.
Piepszak came up through JPMorgan’s investment banking operations and then surprised some colleagues when jumping to the company’s consumer business in 2010, because bankers and traders don’t typically consider such moves. Lake already was working as that division’s finance chief, and the two are friends. For several years, Piepszak oversaw financing operations for the mortgage business, steering it through a period in which it faced a host of crisis-era settlements with regulators.
Dimon, who’s served as CEO since 2005 and called finding a successor his No. 1 priority in 2010, has been known to rotate senior managers among businesses to ensure there is a cast of people equipped to take over the company whenever he steps down. To be sure, a roster of theoretical successors — predominantly men — came and went before yielding the current class.
“The key to advancing leadership by women is ‘access,’ ” Erika Karp, who started the advisory firm Cornerstone Capital Group after spending decades at global banks, wrote in an email. “Are we finally getting to a place where women have equal access to information, experience, authority, influence and profile to be able to effectively steward an organization both strategically and operationally?”
— Michelle F. Davis (Bloomberg)