JPMorgan entices CEO Jamie Dimon to stick around with surprise stock award

Mr Jamie Dimon took over JPMorgan in 2005, and built it into the biggest and most profitable bank in the country. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - Mr Jamie Dimon's five-year retirement joke just got serious.

The billionaire chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co was granted a special gift to persuade him to lead the biggest US lender for another "significant number of years". He was awarded 1.5 million stock appreciation rights, which are like options and will let him capture a profit if the stock price rises in the coming years.

At 65, Mr Dimon is the only sitting bank CEO who led a major firm through the financial crisis. He took over JPMorgan in 2005 and built it into the biggest and most profitable bank in the country.

Mr Dimon's tenure, and the question of who may eventually succeed him, has long been a topic of interest across the financial industry and beyond. It came into heightened focus last year when Mr Dimon was sidelined for four weeks after he underwent emergency heart surgery. And the firm is also fresh off its biggest leadership shakeup in years, putting Ms Marianne Lake and Ms Jennifer Piepszak at the front of the race to potentially take over the top job.

Mr Dimon himself has found ways to be non-committal about when he will call it quits. His favourite quip: The date is five years away, no matter when he is asked.

"This special award reflects the board's desire for Mr Dimon to continue to lead the firm for a further significant number of years," JPMorgan's board said in a regulatory filing Tuesday.

The board gave the award to motivate Mr Dimon, who already has a US$2.1 billion (S$2.87 billion) fortune, to keep doing his job well. Mr Dimon, who received US$31.5 million in compensation for 2020, will not be able to exercise the options for at least five years and must hold any net shares gained from the award until mid-2031.

For the next five years, the board can take away as many as half of his options if the bank's performance is "unsatisfactory for a sustained period of time", if the bank's annual profit excluding certain items turns negative, or if the bank's business units do not meet certain financial thresholds.

The bank's share price has nearly quadrupled over the last decade and is up 18 per cent this year.

It is not unusual for companies to grant large one-off awards to senior executives when they sign new employment agreements or as part of succession planning. But Wall Street banks have largely shied from such grants since the financial crisis.

In May, the firm named Ms Lake and Ms Piepszak as the co-heads of JPMorgan's sprawling consumer and community banking business, effectively elevating them in the race to the financial world's most prized throne. Mr Daniel Pinto, the bank's president, is still widely seen as the obvious replacement for Mr Dimon in an emergency, though a less likely candidate in a slow and orderly handoff.

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