Jamie Dimon has cancer. Yes, it’s curable. Yes, it’s restricted to a small area of his throat and is only in the lymph nodes on the right side and hasn’t gone any further. Yes, he’s had exhaustive tests that have proven this and yes he has, “the best doctors in the world.” But it’s still cancer. And for someone with cancer, Dimon seems very unwilling to take anything that could be construed as a few steps back from the coal face.
This was confirmed in today’s investor call. Even though his treatment has almost certainly begun, Dimon was present and if anything was more vocal than usual. “I feel great,” he insisted, saying that the next disclosure of his condition will likely to be in 7 to 8 weeks’ time, at which point he anticipates that the announcement will simply say that the treatment is over and his prognosis is excellent.
During the next 7 to 8 weeks, however, Dimon will be receiving radiation treatment and chemotherapy. By all accounts, this is hard. Bloomberg recently spoke to an oncologist who described the treatment as demanding and tiring and who said that most patients need strong painkillers and have to modify their diet. Today, however, Dimon insisted that he will be working throughout. “I’ve been advised to rest,” he said, quickly adding. “But that doesn’t mean that I won’t be working…I do plan to work and I do plan to read and I do plan to be accessible.”
This follows an earlier report that Dimon will be using his holiday leave during the treatment of his throat cancer – just in case anyone thought he’d be taking a sickness break.
Dimon has good reasons to work through his illness. He needs to reassure investors that JPMorgan has strong leadership. He may also feel insecure in his position after attempts to unseat him in the wake of the London Whale Trading loss in 2012. Nonetheless, it’s hard not to wonder why he doesn’t just take a few months out. In not doing so, he sends an unfortunate signal to other JPMorgan bankers who are going through health and family crises – whatever happens, you have to keep working, you have to keep checking your emails, you have to pick up the phone. Is that really a good culture to work in?