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Wall Street's Leadership Vacuum

As Jamie Dimon’s star dims, no one stands ready to champion banks’ causes
Wall Street's Leadership Vacuum
Illustration by Mitch Blunt

Wall Street, still reeling from public outrage and increased regulation, is in search of a new senior statesman. The indisputable champion of American high finance had been JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon—at least until multiple investigations and a $5.8 billion trading loss from wrong-way bets on credit derivatives at his bank diminished his stature. His peers at other big U.S. lenders are hobbled by poor performance, tarnished reputations, or a reluctance to step into the breach. “What you’re seeing in the financial-services industry is a lack of any kind of credible statesmen,” says Rakesh Khurana, a management professor at Harvard Business School. Dimon’s reduced ability to defend the industry publicly “basically leaves a vacuum,” he says.

This would be less of a concern if things were placid. As it stands, the industry confronts the most vigorous onslaught of regulations since Congress separated investment and commercial banking with the Glass-Steagall Act in 1933. That coincides with the lowest level of consumer confidence in U.S. banks since Gallup began polling on the question in 1979. The percentage of Americans saying they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence dropped to 21 percent in June, from 41 percent in 2007 and more than 60 percent in 1980.