JP Morgan is rolling out the first cryptocurrency by a US bank to transform the payments business

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, speaking at the 2019 WEF in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 23rd, 2019.

Adam Galica | CNBC

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, speaking at the 2019 WEF in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 23rd, 2019.

The first cryptocurrency created by a major U.S. bank is here – and it’s from J.P. Morgan Chase.

Though holders of bitcoin and other digital currencies may seize on the news that a major financial institution is issuing its own crypto as bullish for the asset class, retail investors will probably never get to own a JPM Coin. Unlike bitcoin, only big institutional clients of J.P. Morgan that have undergone regulatory checks, like corporations, banks and broker-dealers can use the tokens.

There are other key differences between the bank’s crypto and bitcoin, which J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon has bashed as a fraud that won’t end well for its investors. (To be clear, he and his managers have consistently said that blockchain, as well as digital currencies that were regulated, hold promise.)

Each JPM Coin is redeemable for a single U.S. dollar, so its value shouldn’t fluctuate, similar in concept to so-called stablecoins. Clients will be issued the coins after depositing dollars at the bank; after using the tokens for a payment or security purchase on the blockchain, the bank destroys the coins and gives clients back a commensurate number of dollars.

Real-time settlement

There are three early applications for the JPM Coin, according to Farooq.

The first is for international payments for large corporate clients, which now typically happens using wire transfers between financial institutions on decades-old networks like Swift. Instead of sometimes taking more than a day to settle because institutions have cut-off times for transactions and countries operate on different systems, the payments will settle in real time, and at any time of day, he said.

The second is for securities transactions. In April, J.P. Morgan tested a debt issuance on the blockchain, creating a virtual simulation of a $150 million certificate of deposit for a Canadian bank. Rather than relying on wires to buy the issuance — resulting in a time gap between settling the transaction and being paid for it — institutional investors can use the J.P. Morgan token, resulting in instant settlements.

The final use for JPM Coin would be for huge corporations who use J.P Morgan’s treasury services business to replace the dollars they hold in subsidiaries across the world, Farooq said. Unseen by retail customers, the business handles a significant chunk of the world’s regulated money flows for companies from Honeywell International to Facebook, moving dollars for activities like employee and supplier payments. It generated $9 billion in revenue last year for the bank.

“Money sloshes back and forth all over the world in a large enterprise,” he said. “Is there a way to ensure that a subsidiary can represent cash on the balance sheet without having to actually wire it to the unit? That way, they can consolidate their money and probably get better rates for it.”

Looking further out, the JPM coin could be used for payments on internet-connected devices if that use for blockchain catches on, Farooq said.

J.P Morgan is betting that its first-mover status and large market share in corporate payments – it banks 80 percent of the companies in the Fortune 500 – will give its technology a good chance of getting adopted, even if other banks create their own coins.

“Pretty much every big corporation is our client, and most of the major banks in the world are, too,” Farooq said. “Even if this was limited to JPM clients at the institutional level, it shouldn’t hold us back.”

— With reporting by Kate Rooney

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