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Do wealthy CEOs have what it takes to be president?

Brian Sozzi
Editor-at-Large

No doubt about it, the race to take on President Donald Trump in 2020 is shaping up to be jam-packed with high-profile CEOs.

Early speculation has former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz already hiring a PR team to sniff out whether he has a shot at the title. Former billionaire New York City mayor and Bloomberg CEO Michael Bloomberg may be in the mix. And current Disney CEO Bob Iger is also reportedly open to running.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has frequently shot down speculation he has interest in the presidency or serving in government. But given his increasing presence in the media this year, a presidential bid for Dimon should not be ruled out.

The question is whether these titans of business are truly qualified to lead the country because they have mastered the C-suite. Hold jokes about Trump — former CEO of the Trump Organization — being qualified.

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is reportedly weighing a bid for the White House.

“Ideally, a CEO would run for office because they believe they can help people and have a deep desire to serve. That would be a healthy reason to run. CEOs often have great skill sets which can include building teams, developing leaders, making important decisions quickly, building relationships, and typically have strong communication skills. That said, the CEO skill set is limited and they would need tremendous support from a politically savvy team,” Crossman & Company CEO John Crossman told Yahoo Finance.  

Others have a tougher view on a CEO’s qualifications.

“Their skills don’t translate very well — CEOs don’t govern democracies, they govern dictatorships where they tell people what to do,” said Gautam Mukunda, research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School. Mukunda, who has written extensively on the topic, believes that some of the most successful presidents honed their skills in politics by serving in government. “Presidents have to build coalitions.” 

“It’s hard to imagine Jamie Dimon winning a Democratic primary,” Mukunda added.

Count this qualified CEO out

You can count leadership sensei and highly-regarded tech CEO Dan Schulman out of the 2020 race for the White House despite his impressive resume.

PayPal’s 60-year old CEO told me on a fintech panel discussion at the Museum of Finance that he has no plans to run for office. Schulman said he is very happy at PayPal and will continue to focus on using his perch atop the mobile payments giant to do good.

“As I have gotten older, I have thought deeply about the state of our world and I think it’s incumbent upon business leaders to take stands for the values their companies stand for,” Schulman explained. “Our brands need to be more than just making money, they need to be about a purpose.” Schulman thinks that managing and moving money should be a right for all citizens and not just a privilege for the affluent.

It didn’t hurt to ask Schulman if he had presidential ambitions. Schulman has pointed out frequently through the years that he was born with social activism in his blood. His grandfather was a union organizer in New York City. Schulman recalls going to civil rights demonstrations in Washington in a stroller with his mom.

PayPal CEO Dan Schulman says he won’t be running for office in 2020.

That genetic makeup has led PayPal to take several stands on hot-button social issues under Schulman. For one, PayPal doesn’t allow its members to buy or sell any kind of firearm. In 2016, PayPal pulled its expansion plans in North Carolina following legislation that restricted rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture,” Schulman said in a statement at the time.

Aside from the social aspect, Schulman’s leadership resumé  stacks up very well — if not better — than other CEOs rumored to be interested in challenging Trump such as Schultz and Iger. Since joining PayPal as CEO just before its split from EBay in 2015, Schulman has fueled the mobile payments processor to a more than $100 billion market cap. The company has solidified its lead in mobile payments through acquisitions and a host of new services, chief among them being social payments juggernaut Venmo.

Shares of PayPal (PYPL) have skyrocketed 145% since the EBay separation versus a 45% gain for the Nasdaq Composite. Essential to this is Schulman’s knack for building a consensus among his team.

Schulman, a dedicated practitioner of a martial arts form known as Krav Maga, has also worked with big personalities such as eccentric billionaire Richard Branson (then as president of Virgin Mobile USA). He is the former CEO of Priceline and is currently chairman of Symantec and sits on the board of Verizon (parent company of Yahoo Finance).

Schulman’s 30-plus years of senior leadership in tech and do-good approach to business has made him a go-to among executives for leadership advice.

Nevertheless, rest easy PayPal shareholders, Dan is still your man. As for the broader U.S. population, Schultz, Bloomberg or Iger may be our man in 2020, whether they are qualified or not. 

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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