Tiptoe Into Crypto For JPMorgan

JPMorgan, it seems, is underway with inching into cryptocurrencies. Among the first shots across the bow of making things official? Creating an official position.

Fortune, citing Financial News, reported Thursday (May 17) that the firm has established a position to be known as “Head of Crypto-Assets Strategy.” The first executive named to the role is Oliver Harris, who had been at the helm of the “in residence” program for FinTech startups. Fortune noted that the newly-minted role will be responsible for bringing cryptocurrency projects to market.

According to the publication, Harris will work “under the umbrella” of the company’s blockchain initiative, which is, in turn, being directed by Umar Farooq. The blockchain efforts have, thus far, yielded Quorum  a blockchain tied to Ethereum and focused on payments to businesses. In addition, JPMorgan is mulling a spinoff of the Zcash cryptocurrency.

However, Fortune says don’t count on a sudden entrance into cryptocurrency trading from JPMorgan. Though Goldman Sachs has jumped into that pool and allowed for bitcoin trading, and CME Group has debuted two price indexes tied to Ethereum, JPMorgan is “looking into the space.”

As Daniel Pinto, JPMorgan’s head of corporate and investment banking, told CNBC, “I have no doubt that, in one way or another, the technology will play a role. … If we need to clear futures of bitcoin, can we do it? Yes. Have we done it? No.”

Pinto also said in that interview, “You cannot have something where the business proposition is to be anonymous and to be the currency for unknown activities. That will have a very short life, because people will stop believing in it, or the regulators will kill it. I think the concept is valid, you have many central banks looking into. The tokenization of the economy, for me, is real. Cryptocurrencies are real but not in the current form.

Separately, and as noted by Business Insider, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon in the past has “been famously dismissive of cryptocurrencies” and has, in the past, labelled bitcoin a fraud. But he also said that he would be “open minded” to cryptos should they be “properly controlled and regulated.”


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