Bitcoin’s tantalizing rise to $18,000—a 13% increase in the space of a week—still isn’t enough to impress JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon.
Speaking at The New York Times’ DealBook summit, which is being held online owing to the coronavirus, he said he’s not really interested in the world’s biggest cryptocurrency.
However, that isn’t to say that Dimon is skeptical about digital assets or the power of blockchain technology.
The CEO said he’s a believer in cryptocurrencies that are “properly regulated and properly backed”—and prefers to focus on projects that enforce structured Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering checks.
Dimon pointed out that the U.S. banking giant has developed the JPM Coin—which went live with its first customer on Oct. 27—and said “the blockchain itself will be critical to letting people move money around cheaper.”
Bitcoin’s market cap now stands at $330 billion, while the value of the entire crypto industry was just below $500 billion at the time of writing.
During his appearance at the summit, Dimon had a warning: if it gets any bigger, the U.S. will take action. He added:
“My experience of the government is that they can regulate whatever they want, whenever they feel like it.”
Dimon went to great lengths to stress that he didn’t want to hit the headlines with his views on BTC but made it clear that the digital asset doesn’t fit his vision of what the financial world will look like in future. Stressing that he wasn’t calling for a ban, he added:
“It doesn’t mean you can’t buy yourself Bitcoin—there are a lot of very smart people who think that that $200 billion will appreciate more than gold, and the U.S. dollar and U.S. treasuries. Let them do that, it’s just not my cup of tea.”
The banker has a long history of Bitcoin skepticism.
Back in 2014, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he described the cryptocurrency as a “terrible store of value,” and even hinted that the bank may shut out people who do use it.
As the crypto bubble grew in the latter half of 2017, Dimon doubled down on his remarks—threatening to fire traders who bought BTC, and correctly predicting “it’ll eventually blow up.”
“If you’re stupid enough to buy it, you’ll pay the price for it one day,” he added.
Although he later expressed regret at describing Bitcoin as a “fraud,” Dimon’s contempt for crypto has still managed to filter through over the years. In 2018, just ahead of BTC’s 10th anniversary, he told a conference in Los Angeles: “I didn’t want to be the spokesman against Bitcoin. I don’t really give a shit—that’s the point, OK?”
Out of step?
Despite Dimon talking down Bitcoin at every turn, JPMorgan appears to have adopted a different approach to the cryptocurrency.
Last month, in an investors’ note, the bank’s analysts said that PayPal’s decision to launch a crypto service “was another big step toward corporate support for Bitcoin.”
That document, shared by the economist Alex Kruger on Twitter, went on to say: “Although Bitcoin looks currently overbought on our position indicator for the near term, the potential long-term upside for Bitcoin is considerable if it competes more intensely with gold as an ‘alternative’ currency we believe, given that millennials would become over time a more important component of investors.”
So while other big Bitcoin skeptics like investor Stanley Druckenmiller have done an about-face recently, JPMorgan Chase’s boss isn’t going to join them anytime soon.