JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the US, has formally acknowledged that cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology could disrupt banks. The firm made this admission in its annual report, which was dated Feb. 27 and filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Deep in the 301-page document, JPMorgan — which manages $2.53 trillion in assets according to recent estimates — listed cryptocurrencies and peer-to-peer technology as potential disruptors to financial institutions and payment processors. Notably, the report was signed by JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, a noted Bitcoin skeptic who has repeatedly lambasted the flagship cryptocurrency as a “fraud” and once threatened to fire any employees caught trading cryptoassets, although he recently walked back some of these comments. JPMorgan is at least the third major financial institution to cite cryptocurrencies as a business risk in its annual report for 2017. Last week, Bank of America — the second-largest US bank — admitted that cryptocurrencies and other blockchain-based financial services present a threat to its business model, adding that it fears it anti-money laundering systems will need a facelift to account for cryptocurrency-related transactions.
The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has given its employees the green light to trade cryptocurrencies, a decision that came in response to “numerous” inquiries from agency staff. The policy, which Bloomberg reports was announced in a Feb. 5 memo written by CFTC general counsel Daniel Davis, said that because the agency has determined that cryptocurrencies are commodities, employees can trade them like they would precious metals, barrels of oil, and other commodities. However, this policy has several caveats. CFTC employees may not trade cryptocurrencies on margin, nor may they take advantage of any insider information they acquire in the course of their work at the regulatory agency. The CFTC first determined that cryptocurrencies are commodities in 2014, giving the agency a modicum of oversight on cryptocurrency trading. While the agency does not have the authority to supervise cryptocurrency exchanges — which are currently regulated at the state level under money transmitter laws — it has direct oversight of US cryptocurrency futures markets, the first of which launched in December on Chicago-based exchanges CBOE and CME. CFTC regulators may also investigate fraud and manipulation in the spot markets, and the agency has brought suits against several alleged cryptocurrency investment scams.
Matt Hougan has made a career shift from ETFs to cryptocurrencies. He jumped from the traditional fund market to a
cryptocurrency index-fund manager, a market he described to Bloomberg as a “generationally significant opportunity with
interesting challenges.” He joins San Francisco-based Bitwise Asset Management as vice president of R&D. He made a splash
with his call that cryptocurrencies are on their way to being a multi-trillion dollar market, though he admits to Bloomberg
cryptos remain an “early-stage technology” that could be a bumpy road at times. For instance, Hougan suggests the
cryptocurrency markets could suffer a 50% drop before attaining a $1 trillion combined market cap. And as the leading digital
coins have proven so far in 2018, volatility is the name of the game.