JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon has a message to all those CEOs out there who say “uncertainty” is holding them back from investing in their businesses…
Get over it.
In his annual shareholder letter, Dimon devotes a little time to explaining something he sees as a phenomena of our post financial crisis world — the too-scared-CEO. You see them everywhere. Even billionaire Sam Zell has said he needs an ‘all clear’ to get back to business since the world is so scary.
Well Jamie Dimon is here to say that big boys don’t need that kind of hand holding.
“It seems that just about everyone has become a risk expert and sees risk behind every rock. They don’t want to miss it — like they did in 2008. They want to be able to say, “I told you so.”And, therefore, they identify everything as risky.”
Here are a few facts that support the uncertainty and risk aversion hypothesis:
• Corporations seem unduly conservative. We already have mentioned how much excess cash they hold.
• U.S. gross capital formation as a percentage of GDP has been at lower levels in the last five years than it has been for more than 40 years. Capital expenditures ultimately are the drivers of productivity, jobs and growth.
• The top 1,000 companies account for approximately 50% of all capital expenditures. One reason that large companies may be more conservative in their use of cash and debt is that rating agencies are much tougher on ratings. In 1993, the number of AAA and AA issuers was 413, and in 2013, that number was 147. Today, the companies are bigger, basic financial metrics (i.e., debt to equity and margins) essentially are the same and defaults are lower. I have defended the rating agencies’ right to their opinions, but it seems they also may have largely overreacted to the financial crisis.
• Finally, one of the great aspects of the American system is that it is ok to fail and to try again. But even that seems to be diminishing as failure, other than in Silicon Valley, is severely punished.
Hear that everyone? That’s supposed to be an “all clear.”