JP Morgan’s ‘No Zoom’ Policy Tested As Big Firms Skip Health Conference

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Jamie Dimon has praised technology such as Zoom for keeping business going during temporary lockdowns.

Few of the corporate world’s most prominent leaders have been as effusive this year as Jamie Dimon in cajoling office workers back into pre-pandemic routines, arguing his army of bankers at JPMorgan & Chase & Co. can’t tend relationships nearly as well on Zoom.

Now, his firm’s philosophy is colliding with the views of other prominent companies from — of all places — the biotechnology industry.

Decisions by biotech bellwethers Moderna Inc. and Amgen Inc. not to attend JPMorgan’s closely watched health-care conference in San Francisco next month are starting to raise questions about whether the largest U.S. bank can proceed with a plan to resume the annual gathering in person. 

JPMorgan is now considering whether to change course, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation. The event, long known for overcrowded panels and late-night parties, was forced online last time.

Many dealmakers, industry executives and investors are eager for a chance to meet and set the stage for future business — which Dimon has said is much harder to do remotely. 

But JPMorgan’s employees are also fielding calls from concerned members of the health-care industry wondering if the event can take place as planned. And amid surging Covid-19 cases in the U.S. and the threat of more infections posed by the omicron variant, some companies have been discreetly asking JPMorgan for virtual access to the conference’s main presentations, according to people with knowledge of those talks. The bank has yet to respond with a final decision, one person said.

On Tuesday, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. Chief Executive Officer John Maraganore ratcheted up the pressure on his peers and the bank, writing on Twitter that the conference “should go virtual to avoid a super-spreader event and a PR disaster for our industry!” (He noted that he hadn’t planned to attend anyway.)

The annual conference is the investment bank’s flagship event for the health-care industry, and Dimon himself usually does a keynote presentation. A company spokesperson declined to comment.

Dimon, 65, has praised technology such as Zoom for keeping business going during temporary lockdowns but bemoaned the prospect of conducting meetings that way in perpetuity. He’s knocked remote work for slowing decision-making, stifling creativity, upending Wall Street’s apprenticeship model and making it harder to solicit candid feedback from customers about products and services.

Notably, he’s also expressed concern about losing business to rivals if his bankers don’t meet potential clients in person.

Earlier this year, Dimon and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO David Solomon led a push within the financial industry to summon employees back to Manhattan skyscrapers, helping to revive restaurants and other businesses that depend on legions of bankers commuting into the city. By July, JPMorgan was requiring staff to come into offices at least some days. Some of the financial world’s own conferences — such as the Milken Institute Global Conference in October — have since resumed as well.

Moderna and Amgen, with market values of $110 billion and $120 billion, respectively, rank among the largest biotechnology companies in the U.S. Both confirmed that they wouldn’t attend the conference in person, but didn’t elaborate on their decision-making process.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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