Recently, we were delighted to learn that Laura Dimon, the 26-year-old daughter of JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, is a writer. And a good one, at that. Not only has the younger Dimon explored the phenomenon of women pooping at work, but as a politics publishing editor at PolicyMic and a contributor to sites like the Atlantic, she’s taken on topics like the Verizon bond sale, mass hysteria, and online drug bazaars.
Jamie Dimon, too, is a writer of sorts. Today he released a long-winded letter to JPMorgan Chase employees, cheering them up about the wave of regulatory actions being brought against the bank and telling them about his plans for the future. It’s a good letter, as corporate memos go, but is it as good as his daughter’s blog posts? Let’s take a look.
First, let’s look at Jamie and Laura’s respective opening sentences, known in journalism as the “lede.”
Laura: “An anticipatory hush settled over the Columbia auditorium, bulbs flashing and cameras clicking. The blogger had finally arrived.” —“Yoani Sánchez: It’s Not Easy Being a Cuban Blogger”
Jamie: “Dear colleagues, I hope you all enjoyed your summer and were able to spend some quality time with your friends and family.”
Verdict: Jamie’s opening is collegial and polished, but it’s flatter than a buckwheat flapjack. Laura’s lede, on the other hand, contains scene-setting details and narrative tension, culminating in the mysterious introduction of the story’s as-yet-unnamed central character.
Now let’s look at the “nut graf” — the paragraph in which the author lays out his or her primary thesis.
Laura: “Silk Road does not refer to the ancient trade route between Asia and Europe, through which silk and other goods were hauled. This new Silk Road runs along one of the internet’s back alleys — the goods are narcotics, the caravans are modern postal services, and the currencies are digital crypto codes.” —“Welcome to the Silk Road: An Inside Look at the Darkest Corner of the Internet”
Jamie: “We have re-prioritized our major projects and initiatives, deployed massive new resources and refocused critical managerial time on this effort. We are ensuring that our systems, practices, controls, technology and, above all, culture meet the highest standards.”
Verdict: Laura’s nut graf is succinct and clear — it gets across the subject of the piece using clear analogies and leads directly into an explanation of Silk Road. Jamie’s nut graf, on the other hand, could put a McKinsey consultant to sleep. It’s filled with cliché and management jargon (don’t “projects and initiatives” mean the same thing?) and gives no clear sense of what, exactly, he’s promising to change. For someone who is so succinct in spoken word (“We screwed up,” he once told a reporter), Dimon’s opaque, obfuscating prose is a disappointment.
Writing, at its purest, is about conveying emotion. So, which Dimon does better at drawing us into the page?
Laura: “Jill, 28, a Vancouver native now working at an insurance company in New York City, said that if she absolutely can’t avoid the act entirely, she lifts her feet off the ground and props them up against the side of the stall to avoid the “chance that the person next to me would recognize my shoes and forever hold in their heads that I was the girl” defecating in the ladies’ room.” —“The Last Office Taboo for Women: Doing Your Business at Work”
Jamie: “We cannot thank you enough for your tremendous effort. This company has successfully tackled other immense challenges and prevailed—and we will again. This huge investment is worth it because we are making permanent, positive changes to make our company better, stronger and healthier for the long-run.”
Verdict: Both of these are fine specimens. Laura’s anecdote about a female professional too anxious to poop at work puts us right in the stall with her, feeling all of Jill’s shame. Jamie’s rallying cry, on the other hand, is a stirring call to action, akin to something General Patton might have told his troops. You can’t really compare the two — each is a masterful stroke in its own genre.
But writing isn’t all nut grafs and ledes and feelings. You have to back up your claims with evidence, too. Let’s see how tightly the Dimons make their respective cases.
Laura: “We read these books in middle school and high school, hardly remember them, and do not plan on ever reading them again. ‘I’m sure they were nice,’ T. Chase Meacham, community intern, said, ‘But never again.’ We were probably too young when they were assigned, which is a shame. Or maybe we just didn’t do the reading. Either way, a few minutes of office polling revealed that we definitely missed the point on these renowned works of literature.” —“11 Classic Novels That Went Right Over PolicyMic’s Head”
Jamie: “In May and June, I held town halls for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), Federal Reserve Board (FRB) and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Examiners in Charge and their teams. I personally meet with our banking examiners on a regular basis … These efforts come on top of our regular bi-weekly meetings with the FRB, OCC, FDIC and others—in the U.S. and around the world—to review progress and address open issues.”
Verdict: Laura’s thesis about millenial attitudes toward classic works of fiction is thinly sourced. She quotes a PolicyMic intern and used “a few minutes of office polling” to justify her claim that PolicyMic’s collective erudition, when it comes to books like Moby Dick and The Scarlet Letter, is lacking. Jamie, on the other hand, backs up his claims of JPMorgan Chase’s transformation with a litany of facts and statistics and provides verifiable details about which regulators he’s met with and when.
Overall, Laura wins. As the professional writer in the family, she’s got more artistic freedom than her CEO father, who is writing for an audience of shareholders, regulators, and legislators, and who likely has a bunch of annoying lawyers editing him over his shoulder. Maybe, someday, JPMorgan Chase’s compliance department will let Jamie release his inner Shakespeare. Until then, though, we award the Dimon Family Writing Prize to Laura.
We contacted Laura to let her know about her victory. She wrote back with a diplomatic acceptance speech, refusing to kick her father while he’s down:
“I think he is a good writer actually,” she told us. “But I correct a comma or two for him here and there. He got the finance genes and I got the grammar genes. His are probably more useful.”