US banking giant JP Morgan Chase has made a personnel shift, moving the head of its fintech partnership programme to a new role as head of crypto assets strategy.
According to Financial News, which first reported the story on Thursday, Oliver Harris, who has helmed JP Morgan’s In Residence programme that identifies and partners with promising fintech start-ups, has been now tasked with exploring the use of cryptocurrencies across the company’s corporate and investment bank. The publication attributed the information to unnamed sources familiar with the matter. Harris will report to Umar Farooq, the head of blockchain initiatives at the corporate and investment bank. He will also oversee JPMorgan’s internal blockchain project Quorum. There have been rumours that JP Morgan is considering spinning off Quorum into an independent company.
JP Morgan’s move perhaps come as a surprise given that the bank’s chief executive officer Jamie Dimon has been one of Bitcoin’s harshest critics. Last year, Dimon called the original cryptocurrency a ”fraud”, adding that he would fire any employee trading Bitcoin on the company’s accounts.
While the media reports suggest that in his new role Harris will be leading promising crypto projects, rather than actively trading digital currencies, his new assignment suggests that JP Morgan is starting to take the sector more seriously. In a recent interview with CNBC, the bank’s co-president Daniel Pinto admitted that the company was “looking into that space”.
“The tokenization of the economy, for me, is real” he said, but that “Cryptocurrencies are real but not in the current form.”
JP Morgan’s Wall Street rival Goldman Sachs recently hired its first “digital asset” trader and is reportedly looking to open a Bitcoin futures trading operation in the next new weeks. Apparently, the decision was motivated by a growing number of clients showing interest in holding the digital coin as a commodity.