It started with three guys around a table lamenting a shared problem.
But these weren’t just any three business leaders — this was Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Jamie Dimon. And it wasn’t just any problem — this was the high cost and low quality of the $8 trillion U.S. healthcare industry.
“We were sitting around in D.C., bemoaning the healthcare system,” recalled Dimon, the JPMorgan Chase chairman who spoke at a company event in Seattle on Wednesday. “We were talking problems — 18.5 percent of the GDP … the lack of transparency with drugs, blood tests, MRIs; the lack of electronic records; the lack of telemedicine; the corruption; the obesity that’s taken over this country.
“We had to try something,” Dimon said. “What we were doing wasn’t working.”
That conversation ultimately led JPMorgan Chase, Amazon, and Berkshire Hathaway to create Haven, a not-for-profit healthcare joint venture aiming to “to create better outcomes, greater satisfaction, and lower costs for their U.S. employees and families.”
Haven was announced in 2018, but the Boston-based group has kept its specific plans quiet thus far. Dimon did reveal on Wednesday that “we’ve hired 50 really smart people to start analyzing and attacking problems.” He added that it’s a “long-term effort.”
In June 2018, Haven hired Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Atul Gawande as its CEO. The company revealed its name and gave a better idea of its focus this past March, but has yet to announce specific initiatives in the healthcare space. It was originally designed for employees from the three companies, but Dimon recently hinted at a broader vision.
Dimon said technologies such as cloud and AI will help improve healthcare, particularly with using an individual’s data more effectively to identify and prevent illness.
“We’re just beginning,” he said. “There may be a lot of magic in that.”
While Dimon bemoaned the nation’s healthcare system, he was optimistic about the overall U.S. economy, despite concerns of a trade war or recession.
“You sit in the most prosperous, free country the world has ever seen,” Dimon said. “It’s the most prosperous economy the world’s ever seen.”
But Dimon said there’s no shortage of problems to fix, pointing to healthcare, education, transportation infrastructure, overarching regulations for small business, and other aspects of the U.S. that need attention.
“Our problems here are all self-inflicted,” Dimon said.
Dimon was in town for JPMorgan Chase’s Women on the Move Leadership Day, an annual conference “dedicated to propelling women forward in their personal and professional lives.”
The event has been held in New York City for the past four years, but this was the first in Seattle, where Manhattan-based JP Morgan Chase plans to double the company’s Seattle cloud engineering center to 200 people by the end of the year, and again to 400 people by 2022.
Dimon, interviewed by Phyllis Campbell, chairwoman of the Pacific Northwest for JPMorgan Chase, shared various leadership tips he’s accrued over the years leading the world’s most valuable bank. He advised managers to promote people that they themselves would work for; make sure all employees have a voice that’s heard; and to “earn people’s trust.”
“You earn people’s trust because you don’t point fingers; you give honest feedback; you walk the talk; you actually show you care,” he said.
For more from Dimon, check out our earlier Q&A with the chief executive, who spoke with GeekWire editor Todd Bishop about AI, the cloud, and the bank’s big bet on Seattle tech.