The Wall Street Journal reports Jamie Dimon’s JP Morgan Chase & Co. is “looking at business opportunities in the planned bitcoin-futures market” in anticipation of Chicago Merc’s (CME) coming rollout by year’s end. Widely circulated accounts of Mr. Dimon’s notorious disdain for bitcoin seem to be no match for the decentralized currency’s undeniable growth in price and valuation.
Jamie Dimon and JP Morgan Appear to Change on Bitcoin Prohibition
“J.P. Morgan is considering whether to provide its clients access to CME’s new bitcoin product through its futures-brokerage unit,” the Wall Street Journal announced, citing an unnamed source. “That means the bank’s customers could use it to place bets on whether the digital currency will rise or fall, while J.P. Morgan collects fees for such services.”
The bank would effectively be creating a market within CME’s marketplace, a go-between cryptocurrency futures and its customers. Mr. Dimon’s company would, in effect, not be engaged in bitcoin per se but rather act as bringing buyers and sellers together.
Jamie Dimon appears to have experienced a volte-face.
Indeed, as the Journal points out, “J.P. Morgan already handles client trades of Bitcoin XBT, an exchange-traded note designed to track the value of the digital currency. The bank has said it doesn’t take positions in the note and simply routes customers’ buy and sell orders electronically to exchanges.”
Still, this is the company, through its head spokesperson, that claimed if any staff dared so much as dabble in bitcoin, they’d be shown the door. Dimon’s also been on record as referring to enthusiasts as “stupid,” and portending a gloomy fate for the world’s most popular cryptocurrency. He’s even shouted to the heavens about not mentioning bitcoin ever again, only to, of course, change direction.
A Murky Futures Future
To be clear, JP Morgan is weighing such a move, and is “assessing whether there is demand among J.P. Morgan’s customers for the proposed CME bitcoin contract,” the Journal cautions, again from the unnamed source.
And CME’s launch is by no means in stone. Regulators at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) are under severe pressure to get this right, and few fully understand what they’re dealing with when it comes to bitcoin.
Morgan Stanley is “evaluating whether to provide access to the CME bitcoin contract, a person familiar with the matter said,” according to the report. And other competitors too are grappling with the as-now murky future of bitcoin futures: Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. among them.
A CME market has the chance to bring bitcoin into the mainstream of institutional finance. Bitcoiners are divided on what this might mean going forward. Hodlers and those cheering a “digital gold” perspective have long preferred such a scenario, as it does seem prices will continue to rise as a result. Others worry CME and its crowd will bring with them more law enforcement heat, barriers to entry, and make bitcoin even less of a fungible, everyday medium of exchange.