The defenestration of Bill Winters

By Felix Salmon
October 7, 2009
Bloomberg, it's because he felt Winters shouldn't be CEO of the bank as a whole. And so, by the inexorable up-or-out logic of Wall Street, Winters was out.


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Why did Jamie Dimon fire Bill Winters as head of JP Morgan’s investment bank? According to Bloomberg, it’s because he felt Winters shouldn’t be CEO of the bank as a whole. And so, by the inexorable up-or-out logic of Wall Street, Winters was out.

Winters is one of the best risk managers on the street, and saved JP Morgan countless billions of dollars when he refused to let his group join the structured-product gold rush. But there’s much more to being a CEO than risk management, especially today, when you need to be able to charm not only institutional investors but also Washington regulators.

In a way it’s sad that no role could be found for Winters at JP Morgan — but he’s had a long and hugely successful run at the bank, and he’s surely happier dreaming of being CEO elsewhere than being stuck in JP Morgan without any hope of achieving the top job. This is how succession planning should work. For an example of how it shouldn’t work, of course, you just need to look at Bank of America.

If Winters had worked for Ken Lewis, not only would he never have been in line for the CEO job, but he would also have been fired years ago for being altogether too competent. Lewis didn’t like promoting potential rivals; Dimon, by contrast, loves surrounding himself by the smartest and best-qualified professionals he can find.

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