Last week, the crypto community at large was shocked when JP Morgan, the world’s sixth largest bank, unveiled plans to launch its own digital asset. Per previous reports from Blockonomi, the Wall Street bank’s blockchain division lead, the so-called “JPM Coin” will be backed by physical U.S. dollars and will first be based on Quorum, JP Morgan’s private Ethereum-based chain.
Eventually, the asset will go multi-chain, with interoperability protocols allowing for JPM Coin to be transacted in different ecosystems. JP Morgan Blockchain lead, Umar Farooq, claimed that eventually, “anything, where you have a distributed ledger, [that] involves corporations and institutions” could use the stablecoin. For now, however, the JP Morgan executive made it clear that the newfangled offering is intended to make the company’s internal, international corporate transactions more efficient.
And while this venture is inherently centralized, going against the raison d’etre of Bitcoin, some industry pundits have interestingly taken this news in stride.
(Some) Crypto Pundits Are Enthused
Tim Draper, a Silicon Valley-based investor and entrepreneur, recently told Fox Business that JPM Coin is “great news” for the broader crypto space. While he did admit that the bank-backed coin, which he dubbed a “Bitcoin knock off,” is unlikely to do particularly well,” Draper made it clear that this news should catalyze more public awareness of the flagship cryptocurrency. The long-time Bitcoin enthusiast, who siphoned $18 million of his personal wealth into the cryptocurrency in 2014, added that this news is akin “to Apple welcoming IBM into the PC business.”
Others echoed the venture investors’ sentiment to a tee. Coinbase alumni member Linda Xie, who co-founded Scalar Capital, remarked that she’s “actually excited” about JPM Coin. Xie explained that due to JP Morgan’s newest venture, an unnamed university endowment she was in discussions with was enticed to garner more information regarding Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, and related technologies.
Andrew Keys, the co-founder of ConsenSys Capital, lauded JP Morgan for being quick on its feet. Keys noted that as the Wall Street institution was one of the first movers, its clients will have access to “increased liquidity and decreased settlement latency,” adding that the launch of the endeavor is also a stamp of approval for Ethereum’s technology.
Not So Fast
While Draper, Xie, and Keys seem to be taking JP Morgan’s latest offering in stride, some have expressed overt skepticism towards the centralized digital asset.
Travis Kling, a Wall Street hotshot turned crypto hedge fund manager, told Bloomberg that JPM Coin could be likened to a Google Sheet or Excel spreadsheet, rather than Bitcoin. Tom Shaughnessy, the principal analyst at Bitcoin-centric research unit, Delphi Digital, echoed this sentiment. Shaughnessy simply quipped that the asset is centralized, and will provide scant transparency.
Brad Garlinghouse, the chief executive of Ripple Labs, took to Twitter to claim that the institutionally-backed stablecoin is much like launching “AOL after Netscape’s IPO.” This is, of course, in reference to the earliest Internet browsers that garnered traction at the start of the Dotcom boom and bust during the turn of the millennia.
As predicted, banks are changing their tune on crypto. But this JPM project misses the point – introducing a closed network today is like launching AOL after Netscape’s IPO. 2 years later, and bank coins still aren’t the answer https://t.co/39EAiSJwAz https://t.co/e7t7iz7h21
— Brad Garlinghouse (@bgarlinghouse) February 14, 2019
Wall Street analysts and commentators have also been slow to jump on JPM Coin. Speaking to The Block, Will Martino, a member of JP Morgan’s alumni that has delved into the blockchain space, noted that this asset isn’t cohesive with what Satoshi Nakamoto set out to do. An anonymous markets analyst, who spoke to The Block on terms of anonymity, noted that this announcement is a “non-event,” adding that JPM Coin is unlikely to have a material positive impact on the organization that created it.
Even Nouriel “Dr. Doom” Roubini, a professor at Stern School at New York University, had some laudable choice words for JP Morgan’s newest venture. Roubini, who has claimed that Bitcoin will go to $0 on multiple occasions, explained that JPM Coin is far from the public, permissionless, and decentralized nature that cryptocurrencies are best known for.
But, this shouldn’t discount the fact that blockchain technologies are seeing adoption, albeit in a rather centralized manner.