What Dimon had to say about fintech in his annual letter

By Robert Barba for American Banker

This year, JPMorgan Chase plans to allow its retail customers to open an account and complete most transactions on their mobile device and offer them self-directed investment tools, while corporate customers can expect an enhanced digital platform.

The updates were mentioned in CEO Jamie Dimon’s annual letter to shareholders, which was published Tuesday. The highly anticipated letter often serves as a bellwether for various topics, ranging from the threat of fintech in previous years to the need for regulatory reform, the dominating topic in this year’s missive.

Although Dimon’s comments this year on tech were shorter than last year’s, he made a few noteworthy points. (The heads of JPMorgan’s business lines also wrote letters and were expected to include additional details about the company’s efforts with regard to technology. Expect to read more about those letters later.)

For instance, $600 million of the company’s $9.5 billion tech budget was spent “on emerging fintech solutions.” In one sense, Dimon is using “fintech” as a synonym for digital banking. He mentioned that some of that money went toward building and improving online and mobile services. But he also used “fintech” to refer to partnerships with fintech firms. In the last couple of years, for example, JPMorgan has partnered with the online lender OnDeck for small-business loans, TrueCar for auto lending and Roostify for mortgages.

“The reasons we invest so much in technology (whether it’s digital, big data or machine learning) are simple: to benefit customers with better, faster and often cheaper products and services, to reduce errors and to make the firm more efficient,” Dimon said in the 46-page letter.

Dimon also highlighted a Developer Services API store — a place where developers can access the company’s application programming interfaces to build new products or services. Such connectivity would be “fully controlled, of course,” Dimon wrote.

He also vaguely referred to “bill payment and business services” innovations.

“While I can’t reveal much at the moment, suffice it to say there are some interesting developments coming as we integrate our capabilities with those of other companies,” Dimon wrote.

In last year’s letter, Dimon spent a considerable amount of ink discussing screen-scraping and customer data. This year, the firm entered into a deal with Intuit to share data via API. Dimon mentioned the Intuit deal in the letter, but also referenced an on-off switch that allows customers to stop third-party access to their data.

“In addition to protecting the bank, the customers and even the third party (in this case, Intuit), it allows customers to share data — how and when they want,” Dimon wrote. ”We are hoping this sets a new standard for data-sharing relationships,” he added.

In the letter, Dimon also outlined the company’s efforts with the Center for Financial Services Innovation to help foster the growth of fintechs that address the needs of the underserved through the center’s Financial Solutions Lab. To date the lab has supported more than 18 fintech companies.

Dimon also name-checked the savings app Digit, which helps people build savings by moving small amounts of money into an account based on spending and income. Digit has helped Americans save more than $350 million.