At Fortune’s Global Forum, JPMorgan’s CEO said markets will be “scary” until a normal interest rate environment returns.
By Megan Barnett
FORTUNE — It’s going to be scary out there in the markets until we reach a more normal interest rate environment. That was the message delivered by JPMorgan (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon to delegates at the Fortune Global Forum in Chengdu, China on Thursday.
“It’s a different world when central banks are managing interest rates,” Dimon said, referring to the Federal Reserve’s orchestrated effort to keep long-term rates low. He reminded the audience that 10-year bond rates haven’t been set by the Fed since World War II, and rates didn’t normalize until around 1950. “Until it gets back to normal [this time], it’s going to be scary and volatile.”
But Dimon emphasized that the long-term trend still looks positive, and that most people tend to overreact to the dramatic ups and downs in the market. It was a timely reminder, as the Dow Jones industrial average and the Nasdaq suffered their worst losses in two months on Wednesday. Dimon pointed out that the U.S. economy is still growing, albeit it not as fast as it should. In Europe, he said it remains to be seen what will happen, but he said the economic crisis there “could have been worse.”
The bank chief was also optimistic about the prospects for the next generation of workers. Millennials have been repeatedly bashed for being self-centered and entitled, but Dimon said the idea that today’s young generation is any different “is hogwash.” In fact, he said new talent has never been better.
But these young people are competing on a global scale like never before. “The next Steve Jobs not going to come from Stanford,” he said. Instead, he or she will likely come from outside the U.S., where technology is improving education dramatically.
While Dimon spoke about hiring and training the younger generation, his fellow panelist, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent, spoke of the challenges in marketing to them. Consumers’ tastes change faster than ever, and companies with established brands like Coca-Cola (KO) must engage them in a dialogue rather than speaking to them as marketers. Social media is fueling this conversation around the globe, especially in countries like China.
Kent said his company has an advantage in this dialogue because it operates locally in markets around the world. “Coca-Cola hires locally, operates locally, and pays its taxes locally,” Kent said, in an offhanded remark surely Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook would appreciate.
Kent and Dimon were joined on stage by Lenovo CEO Yuanquing Yang for a wide-ranging discussion about how the rules for business are changing. For three different CEOs in three very different industries, the underlying theme was the same: Companies need to quickly evolve to adapt to the new realities in the ever-changing global market, whether they’re meeting demands of consumers, businesses, or government regulators.
Follow #FortuneGlobal for all updates from this week’s event.