Just nine months after their CEO branded the leading crypto asset a ‘fraud,’ JPMorgan Chase appear to be starting to take digital currency more seriously. They announced today that they have appointed a head of crypto-assets strategy.
Is JP Morgan Warming up to Crypto?
Taking the newly created role at the U.S. multi-national bank is 29-year-old Oliver Harris. Harris was formerly the head of JPMorgan’s Fintech and In-Residence programme. He held the position since 2015. His new appointment will see him exploring the use of digital currencies in the financial institution. According to Financial News London, this will involve analysis of the risks and rewards of implementing both blockchain technology and digital currencies themselves.
Harris’ new position will involve him reporting to Umar Farooq, the current head of blockchain initiatives for JPMorgan’s Corporate and Investment Bank. His change of direction was announced internally on Wednesday although his replacement as the Head of Fintech and In-Residence programme is still unknown.
The new head of crypto-assets strategy will also oversee JPMorgan’s Quorum project – an in-house blockchain initiative. The bank are actually considering turning Quorum into its own company, but for now are seeking a couple of blockchain engineers and a community manager in New York.
The move to appoint Harris to the newly created position represents quite the turnaround for JPMorgan. It appears that the financial powerhouse might finally be taking cryptocurrency seriously enough to warrant such exploration.
Such a change of heart might have something to do with their rivals at Goldman Sachs who are appearing to adopt a much warmer attitude towards digital currencies. They recently announced that they had plans to open up their own cryptocurrency trading desk by mid-2018.
Despite today’s news hinting that JPMorgan are taking cryptocurrencies more seriously, some of the most influential figures there are still sceptical of the technology. Earlier this week, we reported on Daniel Pinto, the co-president of JPMorgan, speaking about digital currencies to CNBC. The 55-year-old Argentinian told the publication that cryptocurrencies might evolve into something useful but at present, they didn’t represent much utility. He did however mention that they were ‘looking into that space.’
However, even the still very much ‘on the fence’ attitude that seems to be coming from JPMorgan represents a massive change from 2017. In September, we reported on Jamie Dimon’s outburst about Bitcoin. He dismissed the innovation as a ‘fraud’ and used the tired old analogy of ‘tulip mania’ to put down the world’s number one cryptocurrency. He has since distanced himself from these remarks somewhat.