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JP Morgan Launches a Crypto Strategy; Appoints London-Based Oliver Harris to Head It

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After months of bashing Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, JP Morgan’s Chief Executive has softened his stance after calling crypto a fraud late last year. This is after the bank launched a cryptocurrency strategy unit and appointed its i-house fintech program head as the new Head of Crypto Asset Strategy.

Oliver Harris will be reporting to Umar Farooq, who is the head of the bank’s blockchain initiatives. According to Business Insider, Harris will also be in charge of JP Morgan’s Quorum project, the internal blockchain platform developed by the bank, which is rumoured to be preparing to become a spin-off independent firm.

Harris has has been leading JP Morgan’s Fintech and In-Residence programme since 2015, which is responsible for identifying and developing new financial technologies as well as partnering with promising fintech startups. Harris has already indicated his new role on his LinkedIn profile.

Rich Blockchain Background

The 29 year-old’s move was announced internally on Wednesday and the bank is yet to fill the vacancy he has left behind. Although he is young, Harris has immense know-how in the blockchain and crypto world; a factor that was heavily canvassed prior to his appointment. Harris has previously worked as a strategy consultant at Accenture and has been at JP Morgan for the past four years, dealing mostly with the tech-based ideas and projects.

JPMorgan’s decision to pick a dedicated leader of crypto strategy is a significant one, as it comes less than nine months after Dimon dismissed Bitcoin as stupid and dangerous, saying he would fire any trader caught buying or selling it in a second.

The CEO has since backtracked, saying in January that he was “open-minded about cryptocurrencies if they were properly controlled and regulated”. Like many in the industry, Dimon has spoken of the potential of blockchain in particular.

Daniel Pinto, co-president of JPMorgan, separately told CNBC on Wednesday that the Wall Street giant was now looking into the space. He said,

Cryptocurrencies are real, but not in the current form,

The move to appoint Harris comes at a time when large US investment banks are exploring the risks and rewards of digital money and the distributed ledger or blockchain technology that underpin currencies.

JPMorgan’s big rival, Goldman Sachs, recently recruited trader Justin Schmidt to work in a new division for trading cryptocurrency derivatives and, potentially, the assets themselves.

JPMorgan’s corporate and investment bank offers a broader range of services than Goldman, and people familiar with the matter said Harris will also investigate the possibility of crypto custody services and how blockchain might be applied to its payments business.

Image Credit: JP Morgan

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