When it comes to JP Morgan (NYSE:JPM) and all things crypto, Jamie Dimon, its outspoken chairman and CEO, just cannot keep his mouth shut. Jamie Dimon and his bank were recently the center of attention when it became the first bank to issue cryptocurrency, but praise soon turned to criticism when it became known that the JPM Coin would only be an internal device, used in the backroom to achieve operating efficiencies. Now weeks later, Jamie has declared at the bank’s annual investor day that:
JP Morgan Coin could be internal, could be commercial, it could one day be consumer.
Dimon’s comments run counter to what is posted on the bank’s website. It states that the bank does not “have plans to make this available to individuals at this stage.” It is presently being tested in back office blockchain applications to gain efficiencies in the bank’s global treasury management services area. The technology is particularly effective in effecting cross-border transfers, fulfilling debt issuance commitments for securities, and assisting global corporations in their daily cash management needs. The bank currently moves $6 trillion a day around the globe and receives $9 billion in annual revenues for its services.
Once again, if we look to the JPMorgan website, more clarification is given:
JPM Coin is currently a prototype that will be tested with a small number of J.P. Morgan’s institutional clients, with plans to expand the pilot program later this year. JPM Coin is currently designed for business-to-business money movement flows, and because we are still in a testing phase, we don’t have plans to make this available to individuals at this stage. That said, the cost-savings and efficiency benefits would extend to the end customers of our institutional clients.
The bank arguably never intended its crypto announcement to be construed as a full bore competitive move to attack Ripple, a crypto system that claims its mission is to replace SWIFT as the accepted cross-border payment intermediary. The press and industry pundits immediately carried the storyline down this path, which led to a circus atmosphere where opinions from all points of view flooded the financial press, and such phrases as “bitcoin killer” were bandied about.
Umar Farooq, the head of JPMorgan’s blockchain projects, had explained that the bank meant to take advantage of blockchain technology:
So anything that currently exists in the world, as that moves onto the blockchain, this would be the payment leg for that transaction. The applications are frankly quite endless; anything where you have a distributed ledger which involves corporations or institutions can use this.
Banks, especially those that are global, are notoriously in need of coordinating a host of decentralized operations. There is always a complex mix of batch-oriented and online-real-time processes that must be reconciled over multiple time zones and daily deadline cutoffs. The blockchain, with its decentralized ledger approach, seems a perfect match for any bank’s disparate set of operation systems that require daily reconciliations.
The JPM Coin is also to be a stablecoin, in that its value will be tied to the U.S. Dollar, backed by the reserves of the bank. This approach eliminates the issue of price volatility, which has plagued other crypto coins and constrained broad based acceptance by the merchant community. As for JPM Coin ever moving to the point of sale and contending with the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum, it is pure speculation, but it does seem that Jamie Dimon could not resist stirring the crypto controversial “pot” just one more time.