JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s second major executive shuffle in less than a year said as much about how well the company thinks it has recovered from the financial crisis as it does about its chief executive's management style.
CEO Jamie Dimon — famous for periodic realignments intended to broaden his top managers' experience — shifted three high-profile executives.
Michael J. Cavanagh, 44, chief financial officer since 2004, was named head of treasury and securities services. Heidi Miller, 57, who previously ran treasury and securities, was given the newly created job of leading the company's push into emerging markets like Brazil. Doug Braunstein, who is 49 and previously oversaw investment banking for Americas, is the new CFO.
Observers say Dimon's moves signaled that JPMorgan Chase is on sound enough footing to start focusing on the future. That effort includes not only grooming executives, but an emphasis on overseas growth.
"There are certainly several emerging markets whose financial systems are not as mature as the U.S. … [JPMorgan Chase] wants to be a part of their growth," Jason Goldberg, an analyst with Barclays Capital Inc., said of Miller's new role. "These are regions they've continued to invest in while many of their competitors have had to pull back or not invest in given the challenges they've faced at home."
Goldberg said these management changes show that Dimon feels that his company has rebounded well enough from the financial crisis of 2008 to enable him to focus more on one of his pet issues: succession. He couldn't really make any dramatic management changes in the thick of the downturn.
This is his second major management change since the banking markets started thawing earlier last year. In September he appointed company veteran Jes Staley, 53, to lead the investment bank and Mary Callahan Erdoes, 42, to run the asset management division.
Cavanagh said in an interview that he has no qualms about leaving the job he had held for five years, explaining that Dimon likes to season executives by moving them around to different jobs.
"The result is the deep talent bench we have," Cavanagh said. "It's just what this team does. We've had to do various, different jobs. It makes us all better individually and keeps us interested in what we do."
Any one of the heads of JPMorgan Chase's six business lines could have a shot at running the whole company, observers say. And even if they don't move up to the job eventually, having experienced people running things is good for the company.
It is important to "keep the faces fresh," Goldberg said. "My sense is Jamie is not going anywhere any time soon. It does lay the foundation for the future."
Dimon himself had served as a mergers specialist and finance chief for an commercial lending company, among other things, before he was 40. He also learned the importance of smooth succession planning after he was fired in 1998 from Citigroup Inc., a company he helped build and was poised to eventually run.
Thomas Watkins, a partner with the executive search firm Chartwell Partners, said there are benefits and risks to grooming a wide pool of successors. The downside is that profits, at least in the near term, could suffer as a new executive takes over an unfamiliar business line. There is also the risk that a company veteran, having built his resume by serving in a number of different roles, could take his expertise elsewhere as it soon as it becomes apparent that he doesn't have a lock on the top job.
"There are trade-offs," Watkins said. "The obvious benefit to the shareholders and the franchise is they get a well-rounded leader from elsewhere in the organization to potentially step up and run the whole organization."
In the meantime, Dimon's new top deputies have a chance to prove themselves over the next several years by delivering results. Most market watchers agree Staley is best positioned to take the reins should Dimon depart sooner rather than later, given that the investment bank is the crown jewel of the company.
But Miller, in the new role as president of international, is in a marquee slot as well, though she is the oldest of the possible heirs apparent. Still, she has an important task in coordinating JPMorgan Chase's efforts overseas, an area of growth that will become increasingly important as new consumer regulations weigh on profits in the U.S.
Miller has a long working relationship with Dimon. She was his CFO at Bank One Corp. and worked with him at Citigroup, where she had risen to CFO by the time she left in 2000.
Miller took over JPMorgan Chase's treasury and securities services unit in 2004 and US Banker named her the most powerful woman in banking for the past three years. Right now three of JPMorgan Chase's main business lines do business in other countries: Asset management, investment banking and treasury services. Miller's job will be to figure out how they should be working together and where they should be looking to drum up new business. She will also oversee an existing initiative to beef up the company's corporate bank in places like China in a direct affront to rival Citigroup Inc., which does more business overseas than any of the other large U.S. banks.
While Citigroup pretty much has the market locked up on retail banking outside of the U.S., JPMorgan Chase sees an opening go toe to toe with that company and other global banks in areas like cash management and trade finance.
"I definitely think there is room for growth for the remaining companies. You have lost some competition. Lehman's gone," said Keith Davis, an analyst with Farr Miller & Washington. "JPMorgan probably sees more opportunity to grow overseas in the capital markets arena than it does in the U.S."