What does JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon really think about Bitcoin?

24 Feb, 2019 | Updated: 24 Feb, 2019
by David Robb
Analysis
What does JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon really think about Bitcoin?

Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan, has been one of the most vocal critics of the cryptocurrency world over the last five years. Despite this apparent hostility, his financial giant has just launched its own digital token (JPM Coin), so it's now worth asking - what does Jamie Dimon really think about Bitcoin?

Although Bloomberg and some other media outlets enthusiastically reported that a recent crypto price surge was caused by the launch of JPM Coin, this narrative has been mostly disregarded as implausible.

The overwhelming majority of observers within the community see JPM Coin as being a negative development for crypto. Most are denying that it is even a cryptocurrency at all, comparing it to Venezuela's ill-fated efforts to launch its own oil-backed digital token.

Read more: Next bull run? Here's what the community is saying about this crypto rally'The JP Morgan coin is not a real cryptocurrency', say crypto experts

Regardless of what you think about JPM Coin, this is definitely a quizzical change of direction for a company which has been so anti-crypto for so long, with a CEO who has repeatedly dismissed the concept.

Alongside billionaire Warren Buffett, famous economist Nouriel 'Dr. Doom' Roubini, and a few others, Dimon has been a key figurehead in the mainstream financial opposition to crypto.

His first major public statement on crypto was back in January 2014, when he told an audience at Davos that Bitcoin (BTC) was a "terrible store of value", and urged financial institutions to stay well away from it:

"The question is, do we even participate (with) people who facilitate Bitcoin?"

Later, at the Fortune Global Forum in 2015, Dimon doubled down on his pessimism about crypto. This time he pointed out that its resistance to censorship and freedom from border controls would mean that national governments could never let it succeed.

This statement, although bearish, could have hinted at some kind of support for at least the idea of crypto. His prediction that states would eventually block the growth of crypto and crack down on it in various ways has proven itself to be partly true.

"No government will ever support a virtual currency that goes around borders and doesn’t have the same controls"

Read more: Why hasn't the SEC approved a Bitcoin ETF yet?

2017, the year that Bitcoin's historic bull run kicked into gear, was also the year of Dimon's most scathing dismissals. Like many at the time, he compared the BTC price rally to the 'tulipmania' phenomenon that occurred in the Netherlands in the 17th Century and insisted that he would fire any of his traders if he found out they were dealing with it.

This was in September 2017, when a recent Chinese crackdown on exchanges and ICOs had seen the price of Bitcoin drop back below the $3,000 mark, after gradually climbing throughout the year to $5,000.

"You can’t have a business where people can invent a currency out of thin air and think the people buying it are really smart...It’ll eventually blow up. It’s a fraud, OK?"

In October, as BTC saw a resurgence to break the $6000 mark and interest in blockchain and digital currencies increased among many high-ranking members of his own company, Dimon stated:

"I am not going to talk about Bitcoin anymore."

Was JD sick and tired of being asked about this worthless fad? Or was he now starting to see its potential, and maybe regretting his previous comments? Perhaps he was becoming more aware of how his declarations could affect the growth of an asset that could turn out to be hugely profitable for his company? Or maybe he just didn't want to be on the wrong side of history...

Flash forward to January 2018, and Bitcoin (BTC) has recently seen an all-time high price of $20,000, still unmatched (as of February 22, 2019...). Interestingly, this is the price that Dimon believed it "could" reach before, he claimed, it would start to retreat again and eventually "blow up".

In an interview with FOX Business, Dimon now walks back some of his most extreme claims about Bitcoin, but he still insists that he has no interest in the leading crypto. He goes along with the general sentiment of institutional finance, warning against ICOs but acknowledging that blockchain's decentralized ledger technology does have potential.

"I regret (calling Bitcoin a fraud)..."

Later in 2018, as the BTC price had retreated to around $6,000, Dimon gave an interview to Harvard Business Review where he once again expressed his commitment to making fewer comments about Bitcoin. He did, however, imply that it couldn't compete with more traditional payment methods and stores of value, nor with newer innovations like Paypal or Venmo.

"I probably shouldn’t say any more about cryptocurrency. But it’s not the same as gold or fiat currencies"

 Read more: What could make Bitcoin go mainstream again?

As the 10th anniversary of Bitcoin's launch approached, Dimon was asked about the crypto at a conference in Los Angeles and reiterated that it was something he had no interest in. Despite the inflammatory remarks he had made in the past, he seemed to resent the status he now had as one of the leading anti-BTC figures. 

"I didn’t want to be the spokesman against Bitcoin. I don’t really give a shit — that’s the point, OK?"

As of February 2019, the stance of Dimon with respect to crypto now seems to have changed quite a lot. Although we're unlikely to see a wholehearted endorsement anytime soon, his firm is looking to get some crypto exposure through Bakkt. A JP Morgan report has also claimed that crypto could be mainstream within five years - this is a much shorter time-frame for widespread Bitcoin adoption than "never", which is what Dimon previously predicted.

Read more: JP Morgan: Crypto, Blockchain is still 'three to five years' from being mainstreamJP Morgan looking to Bakkt for exposure to cryptocurrency

As much as JPM Coin may be mocked and dismissed, major financial institutions joining the crypto space is what most people in the community want to see. Few people can see any other way for the BTC price to rise back to its late 2017 highs without major investment from Dimon and his fellow global banking leaders. So, does he still deserve our scorn for being so dismissive of BTC only to change his mind when the price is right? Absolutely, yes.

Back in his more bearish days, Jamie Dimon claimed that crypto would only have value "in a dystopian economy". Presumably meant as a criticism, this statement isn't far away from what many crypto enthusiasts also believe. Given that BTC was developed as a response to the 2008 global economic crash and subsequent bailouts of the financial sector, you could argue that crypto is in fact intended to save us from the dystopian economy that we are currently in, which people like the JP Morgan CEO have helped to create.

What Dimon lacks in self-awareness he makes up for in vast wealth, and if (when?) the billionaire eventually commits to Bitcoin, it could be a huge development in the crypto story.

Read more: Will Bitcoin replace fiat money?; What happens to Bitcoin if the stock market crashes?

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