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Jamie Dimon says bitcoin is 'not my cup of tea' even as JPMorgan has warmed to crypto

·Contributor
·3-min read
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Bitcoin has surged 184% since the start of the U.S. COVID-19 lockdown in mid-March, and is up 148% in 2020 overall. On Wednesday, it topped $18,000 for the first time since 2018.

But JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, speaking at the New York Times DealBook Summit on Wednesday, reiterated that bitcoin is “just not my cup of tea.” He also predicted governments will soon regulate it more stringently.

We’ve heard this from Dimon in the past, and previously in much harsher terms than “not my cup of tea.”

In September 2017, Dimon called bitcoin a “fraud... worse than tulip bulbs” and predicted it “isn’t going to work.” He also said that if JPMorgan (JPM) traders were trading cryptocurrency, “I would fire them in a second, for two reasons: It is against our rules, and they are stupid, and both are dangerous.”

Three years later, JPM isn’t quite trading cryptocurrency, but it has warmed to the underlying technology in a number of ways.

Jamie Dimon, chairman & CEO of JP Morgan Chase & Co., speaks during the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York City, New York, U.S., September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Jamie Dimon, chairman & CEO of JP Morgan Chase & Co., speaks during the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York City, New York, U.S., September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Last year, JPMorgan created JPM Coin, a digital token for internal use by the bank’s institutional clients, and built out an internal blockchain unit (called Onyx) to oversee JPM Coin and blockchain pilots. Crypto purists pointed out that JPM Coin is hardly a true cryptocurrency since it isn’t decentralized, but the move was still seen as the first step toward the bank embracing blockchain for enterprise. (Onyx CEO Umar Farooq wrote in his blog post announcing the launch of JPM Coin, “We have always believed in the potential of blockchain technology, and we are supportive of cryptocurrencies as long as they are properly controlled and regulated.”)

Indeed, at the DealBook Summit on Nov. 18, Dimon said, “The blockchain itself will be critical to letting people move money around the world cheaper. We will always support blockchain technology.”

In May, JPMorgan went a step further when it began allowing customer transfers to and from Coinbase and Gemini, two U.S.-based regulated crypto exchange sites. And Dimon on Wednesday acknowledged that some “very smart people” are investing in bitcoin these days. (Hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones is one of them.)

What it all adds up to is a softening of Dimon’s rhetoric on bitcoin that goes hand in hand with his bank’s gradual cozying to cryptocurrency and blockchain.

Dimon is also increasingly willing to comment on what’s going on in the space: last year, in an interview with Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer, Dimon questioned Facebook’s digital currency Libra: “Will they follow banking rules or KYC, BSA, AML [know your customer, Bank Secrecy Act, and anti-money laundering rules], or will they not? But they obviously want to serve their clients, and that’s fine. I also want to be able to serve their clients, too. We would like to do some of it too, ourselves, and we don’t always want to be forced into someone else’s ecosystem.”

That suggested Dimon would like to build out more of JPMorgan’s own crypto and blockchain ecosystem, and signs still point to the bank continuing to do that.

Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and closely covers bitcoin and blockchain. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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