JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon paid a visit to Wilmington, Del., recently to visit the bank's corporate offices, glad-hand among the state's 11,000-strong workforce in a town hall meeting, and take in a coding boot camp it funds called Zip Code Wilmington.
That last group trains computer coders in a 12-week, $12,000-tuition program to educate potential workers for JPMorgan, which has roughly 250,000 employees globally. Students either completed college or dropped out and turned to software as a way to earn an average of $74,000 upon graduation, according to Zip Code.
Dimon sat down with the Inquirer to elaborate on why he's going on his 10th annual bus tour of the bank's East Coast operations — including Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington — and his views on the economy.
"I'd love to see other coding programs around the country, and see the economics of it. With the total cost, the companies reimburse almost all of it," he said after touring Zip Code Wilmington. The school charges $3,000 upfront, and if the students are hired by corporate partners, the companies reimburse the remaining $9,000 in tuition.
"We do other coding projects in other cities, and it should be replicated," he said.
Dimon expounded on student loans and college unaffordability.
"Half the kids who start college don't finish, and the average kid takes six years. Is that system working? High schools should be training for jobs.
"Is it true that a lot of kids have student loans they can't handle? That's true. Is it true they should all be forgiven? Of course not.
"I graduated business school owing $30,000 from Harvard Business School. If you're paying for good education, it is a good investment. So there should be forgiveness, but not for those who got what they wanted, who got a job. But there are those who got loans they shouldn't have taken, they never finished, and that's a problem. Yes, you should have some form of forgiveness.
"The federal government took on all student lending without any underwriting, instead of saying who is this for, discipline around who gets the loan. The government should have done it right."
What about the last round of rate cuts and the economy?
"This is the most prosperous economy the world has ever seen. The notion that we're in terrible shape is completely wrong. Are there problems? Are we doing less well? That's clearly true."
On the Fed's recent rate cut, "it barely makes a difference to the U.S. economy. It's all about psychology. The economy's doing fine, the consumer side is doing quite well. Wages are going up. The balance sheet, in general, is in good shape other than student lending," which totals $1.6 trillion vs. $10 trillion in mortgages.
"The business side is getting worse — and it's all around trade. You see capex [capital expenditures] coming down, you see confidence dropping dramatically, not below the median, but it's coming down," he said, due to Brexit, Hong Kong riots, and the U.S.-China trade war.
"We're damaging people's confidence that there'll be a trade deal at all. There are legitimate issues with China, it's better for the world if we have a trade deal that fixes the legitimate interests of the U.S."
Launched in 2015, Zip Code Wilmington has trained about 300 coders and JPMorgan has hired roughly 135 of the grads.