Jamie Dimon Confronted Bill Gates After the Microsoft Founder Said Banks Were Dinosaurs

(Fortune) - Hindsight suggests that betting against JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon isn't the smartest idea—especially when it comes to banking. But nearly two decades ago, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates suggested it might be time to start "bypassing" these financial institutions—and Dimon hasn't forgotten.

In the mid-1990s Gates—now a billionaire worth $149 billion per Bloomberg's Billionaire's Index—didn't appear to hold banks in especially high esteem.

He reportedly said banks were "dinosaurs" that could be bypassed, and added that while "banking is necessary, banks are not."

Such statements caught the attention of Dimon, now also a billionaire himself, who said he confronted the Big Tech founder in the late 1990s.

Dimon "remembered" Gates's criticism of the industry and called him out on it a number of years later, he told Bloomberg's Emily Chang on her podcast 'The Circuit.'

"I spoke to him about it in 1997," Dimon said. "Obviously he was dead wrong—he'd probably agree with that."

'Technology changes everything'

But the 68-year-old Harvard alumni agreed with Gates on the wider point that "technology changes everything"—even if that hadn't meant banks becoming redundant.

"If anyone is complacent or arrogant or thinks that because you have a big position today you're going to have a big position tomorrow, that's a mistake," Dimon said.

But while technologies like artificial intelligence may displace some human roles in the finance sector, Dimon said there will always be a need for banking in some shape or form.

"What is banking?" Dimon asked. "Someone's going to have to hold the money. Someone's going to have to move the money. Someone's going to have to raise the money. Someone's going to have to do research around money.

"Those services will still be around and hopefully we're doing it and using a lot of tech to do a better job at it."

According to one index at least, JPMorgan is certainly doing a better job than its peers when it comes to integrating tech like artificial intelligence with day-to-day operations.

Benchmarking platform Evident Insights assesses how ready businesses are for the incoming wave of transformation that AI will bring, and the platform's co-founder and CEO Alexandra Mousavizadeh says that Dimon's firm is leading the pack.

Banks like JPMorgan Chase, and other North American institutions, are now so far ahead of their peers it’s now a question of “can one catch up,” Mousavizadeh told Fortune's Brainstorm AI conference held in London this week.

Big Tech's banking foray

And while Dimon's team of more than 240,000 employees may be leading the way for their peers, there's also a new player entering the financial playing field: Big Tech.

While Apple's recent foray into consumer banking with Goldman Sachs is reportedly coming to a close, Dimon is keeping a close eye on such activities.

The CEO, who was paid $36 million for his work in 2023, said Apple's move into finance isn't currently an "existential threat" to JPMorgan, but added: "If we were complacent about it, yes."

The self-professed “full-throated, red-blooded, patriotic, unwoke, capitalist CEO” also made it clear he wouldn't make it easy for emerging competitors to gain any of JPMorgan's market share.

He said: "We're going to compete, so they have a tough competitor but they hold money, move money—yeah, they're a form of a competitor. We also partner with them but I'm very used to partnering and competing with lots of people."

The Queens native added Apple has the "right" to launch their own financial products, but said he "would be against the unfair use of their position to dominate us a in a business."

By Eleanor Pringle


More Articles