This Eccentric Former Soldier Is Leading JPMorgan’s Hunt For Gold In Afghanistan

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Last year, a team of Pentagon officials and American geologists discovered minerals buried in Afghan soil valued at nearly $1 trillion.

The deposits included “huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium,” the New York Times reported at the time. The Pentagon memo that outlined the discovery, even said Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.”

And if “anyone can wrest a fortune from Afghanistan’s rubble,” it is J.P Morgan’s Ian Hannam, Fortune reports.

Hannam’s official title is chairman of J.P. Morgan Capital Markets.

What that means, really, is that he is Jamie Dimon’s man in Afghanistan.

According to a profile by Fortune editor-at-large, James Bandler,

Arriving in a developing nation with his iPad and his enigmatic smile, Hannam personifies the soft side of Western power. He doesn’t bend people to his will with weapons or threats. But there is no mistaking the dealmaker’s impact: In his wake, mountains are razed, villages electrified, schools built, and fortunes made.

To Hannam… Afghanistan represents a gigantic, untapped opportunity — one of the last great natural-resource frontiers.

And if we were Jamie Dimon, we’d want Hannam as our ambassador in Kabul too. The man is a former SAS soldier (of the members of his Afghan team, in fact, have seen action).

“He’s in the gym at 6am every morning, loves outdoor sports and runs to work once a week,” the Telegraph reported.

Here’s how Hannam reached the point at which he’s JP Morgan’s pointman in Afghanistan, according to Fortune..

He grew up in working-class neighbourhood in South London. He’s the son of a council worker. He joined Britain’s Territorial Special Air Service when he was 17, as part of a part-time regiment called the Artists Rifles — “akin to a U.S. National Guard special forces unit.” He earned a civil engineering degree from Imperial College.

Career-wise, Hannan got a job at a construction firm called Taylor Woodrow. On assignment in in Nigeria and Oman, and living in a tent “he could not help noticing how well oil-company executives lived,” Fortune. said. So he took himself off to get an MBA.

CUE: Banking career.

After London Business School, Hannam landed a gig with Saloman Brothers, and was apparently “fast-tracked to the bank’s vaunted debt syndicate desk.”


“His embrace of complexity and change, his indifference to organizational hierarchy and abundant self-confidence born of experience set him apart,” recalls Terry Fitzgerald, founder of Longbow Capital Partners, who was at Salomon with Hannam.

Hannam then decamped to merchant bank Robert Fleming, which was eventually acquired by JP Morgan.

Apparently when he landed in Iraq a few years ago,

[F]or a meeting with Iraq’s oil minister, the minister asked, “What are you here for?”
“I’m here to make five new Iraqi billionaires every year for the next 10 years,” Hannam said with a twinkle in his eyes.

“He’s the kind who keeps his Blackberry switched on on the ski slope. He can’t bear to miss anything, and he’ll work every hour God sends for you, if he needs to,” an associate told the Telegraph. Outside of work, he has a “wife and three children, a townhouse in Notting Hill, a wild game preserve in the Stormberg mountains of South Africa, and a 230-acre estate in Vermont,” according to Fortune.

Of Hannam, Jamie Dimon told the Afghan Mining Minister, Wahidullah Shahrani: “You’re in good hands with Ian. He’s eccentric, but he gets things done.”

Now meet the Pentagon official who match-made JP Morgan with Kabul >