The boss of JP Morgan has apologised for predicting that the Wall Street bank would outlive China’s Communist party, insisting he “regrets” the comment, made less than 24 hours earlier.
Speaking at an event in Boston, Massachusetts, on Tuesday, Jamie Dimon referred to the fact that the bank began operating in China in 1921, the same year as the Communist party.
He said: “I made a joke the other day that the Communist party is celebrating its 100th year – so is JPMorgan. I’d make a bet that we last longer.”
“I can’t say that in China,” he said, adding: “They are probably listening anyway.”
On Wednesday morning in the US, JP Morgan issued a formal statement in which an apparently chastened Dimon apologised for his remarks.
“I regret and should not have made that comment,” he said. “I was trying to emphasise the strength and longevity of our company.”
A JP Morgan spokesperson said Dimon understood that he should “never speak lightly or disrespectfully about another country or its leadership”.
“During the discussion Jamie made clear China and its people are very smart and very thoughtful,” the spokesperson added.
Dimon risked incurring the wrath of Beijing a week after he was allowed to skip Hong Kong’s strict 21-day hotel quarantine rules during a 32-hour trip to Hong Kong, the first visit by a Wall Street bank boss to China since the pandemic.
Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, said he had been allowed to do so because he runs “a very huge bank” with “key business” in the Chinese-controlled region.
JP Morgan has several ventures in China and won regulatory approval in August to become the first foreign owner of a securities brokerage in the People’s Republic.
Dimon’s climbdown is not the first time that he has been forced to backtrack after off-the-cuff remarks risked incurring the wrath of a global superpower’s leadership.
In September 2018, Dimon said he could beat Donald Trump, who was US president at the time, in a campaign. He put this down to being more intelligent than Trump and having earned his wealth rather than inherited it.
An hour later he issued a statement saying he shouldn’t have made the comments and that they proved he may not be such a good politician after all.