A throwaway line from Jamie Dimon shows why the fintech hype has gone too far

Jamie Dimon is not wild about fintech.

While most of Wall Street is abuzz about financial technologies like blockchain and online lending, the JPMorgan CEO has adopted a more sober tone.

“A lot of things they do, we can do; a lot of things they do, we don’t want to do; and of course they can be competitors,” Dimon said of fintech companies, speaking Thursday at the Bernstein Annual Strategic Decisions Conference in New York.

Dimon said he and a management committee had recently analysed a number of fintech companies and identified areas where banks could benefit from their technology.

He said that while technology has been disrupting the industry for at least 50 years, fintech is different in that it’s developing faster, and “a lot of smart people” are involved.

But, Dimon said, JPMorgan is good at adapting and digitising its businesses.

“They say millennials don’t like banks — I say, yeah, until that first paycheck,” Dimon said. “Then they direct deposit and they love Chase.”

He said his firm plans to embed a peer-to-peer lending platform into its digital Chase Pay app, and noted that JPMorgan is working to partner with a handful of other banks to create a real-time peer-to-peer lending system.

He also said that the firm could delve into robo-advising “and give it away for free if we want” to its best clients.

Dimon’s point, which he has made before, is there’s little the fintech community can accomplish that large institutions like his can’t also do. In a Bloomberg interview in March, the CEO said online lending, for example, is “nothing mystical.”

On blockchain, the “game-changer” technology designed to simplify and better secure the way transactions are processed, Dimon was equally tepid.

“It’s a technology. It may work,” he said.

JPMorgan has taken the lead on Wall Street in terms of testing out the new technology. It has already launched a trial project with a blockchain startup led by its former executive, Blythe Masters.

Dimon said they have held test runs using blockchain for credit-default swaps and in the repo market.

“It will work on some things, if it’s secure,” Dimon said. “If it works, it works — we’re happy to use it.”

But he added that blockchain is only “one of a long line” of financial technologies that could ultimately make things cheaper and more efficient for the bank — and that the existing technology it would replace is not “inefficient or bad.”

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