JP Morgan Offering First Cryptocurrency Backed by U.S. Bank

JP Morgan will be offering the first U.S. bank-backed cryptocurrency dubbed the “JPM Coin” to help facilitate its large global transactions as part of its wholesale payments business.

With more than $6 trillion the bank moves around the world each day, the coin will help settle payments between clients instantaneously. Trial transactions using the JPM Coin are set to begin in a few months.

“So anything that currently exists in the world, as that moves onto the blockchain, this would be the payment leg for that transaction,” said Umar Farooq, head of J.P. Morgan’s blockchain projects. “The applications are frankly quite endless; anything where you have a distributed ledger which involves corporations or institutions can use this.”

“Money sloshes back and forth all over the world in a large enterprise,” Farooq added. “Is there a way to ensure that a subsidiary can represent cash on the balance sheet without having to actually wire it to the unit? That way, they can consolidate their money and probably get better rates for it.”

The caveat for cryptocurrency speculators, however, is that the bank will not offer the digital coin to retail investors. Only large institutional clients that have undergone stringent regulatory checks will be able to use the coin.

As such, the leading digital currency Bitcoin fell 0.29 percent in the last 24 hours as of 11:15 am. ET on Thursday. After reaching a high of $20,000 in December 2017, the cryptocurrency has fallen over 80 percent to around $3,600.

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The news comes as cryptocurrency-related products have been facing a legal labyrinth to legitimacy in the investment space with pushback from the Securities and Exchange Commission on offerings like bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Nonetheless, this marks a giant step forward with the endorsement of a cryptoasset from a major bank like JP Morgan.

This could pave the way for more adoption by other banks or on a grander scale, acceptance from the investment community as a whole.

“This is another positive development for the crypto ecosystem,” said Matt Hougan, Global Head of Research at Bitwise Asset Management. “It is a ringing endorsement from a large bank that the core technology underlying blockchains and cryptoassets is a significant improvement over legacy systems: better, faster and cheaper.”

“The choice to use a private, captive architecture is not surprising, as a public blockchain or public cryptoasset represents a radical challenge to large parts of JP Morgan’s business,” Hougan added. “Over time, history suggests that open systems win over closed architectures, and I suspect that will be true here too.  But in the meantime, this is a big step forward.”

Dimon Supports Blockchain Technology

The news of the bank offering a cryptocurrency comes as JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon has bashed digital currencies in the past, going as far as dismissing Bitcoin as a fraud.

“It’s worse than tulip bulbs. It won’t end well. Someone is going to get killed,” Dimon said at a banking industry conference. “Currencies have legal support. It will blow up.”

Despite his lack of support for Bitcoin, however, Dimon has been more supportive of its underlying technology–the blockchain. Many industries are already incorporating blockchain technology to help facilitate their business models like IBM and Microsoft.

Blockchain technology is also being used by fintech companies to create more secure financial transactions. Other real world applications of blockchain include its use in health care to offer payment processing for medical services and to secure patient records.

“The blockchain is real,” Dimon said. “You can have cryptodollars in yen and stuff like that. ICOs … you got to look at every one individually. The bitcoin was always to me what the governments are going to feel about bitcoin when it gets really big. And I just have a different opinion than other people.”

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