Category Archives: JPMorgan

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JPMorgan Fintech Campus Set for 2020: “Silicon Valley Is Coming.”

In 2019 JPMorgan, America’s largest bank by assets will start the development of a “new fintech campus” in Palo Alto, Silicon Valley, as part of the bank’s long-term plan to further embrace fintech.

The campus for over 1000 employees will be set in prime commercial real estate wedged between Google and Facebook on a plot of land that was once the home of American global aerospace, defense, and security company Lockheed Martin at Stanford Research Park.

It is no surprise that one-time crypto critic, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has announced the bank’s intended move into Silicon Valley, given comments in the bank’s most recent shareholders letter which outlined where the bank was moving in terms of its involvement in new technologies in the fintech sector with up to 50,000 employees now involved.

The bank is aware that staying competitive in the area of fintech is essential to growth and also fending off keen competition. Staying on top of the latest cybersecurity, which is an ever-evolving space in the financial sector, is becoming highly relevant as banks evolve.

The announcement of the campus follows last year’s acquisition of Paypal’s main competitor WePay, whose 275 employees will also be making the move to Palo Alto. The campus will include “an innovation hub” and what the company describes as “modern workplace design with amenities that matter most to employees and state-of-the-art technology to increase collaboration.”

Site developer, Truebeck Construction, state that the project will commence with the construction of a 115,000-square-foot two-story edifice, further followed by a building of 80,000 square feet. But with floor space in Palo Alto averaging $107.64 per square foot per year,  at three times the national average, rent certainly won’t come cheap.

Dimon predicted the move back in 2015 when he famously warned of “hundreds of startups with a lot of brains and money working on various alternatives to traditional banking,” predicting “Silicon Valley is coming.”

“This is him planting that flag,” Tina Hsiao, WePay’s operating chief, said in an interview. “The leaders have said: we’re not tourists, we’re here to stay.”

“Nontech industries are opening, whether it’s thought centres or innovation centres, to tap into the intellectual capacity that’s here in the valley,” said Jon Cannon, executive managing director at commercial real estate advisory firm Newmark Knight Frank in Silicon Valley. “It’s a continuing trend.”

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JP Morgan Adds 75 More Cogs to Its Blockchain Machine

America’s largest bank, JP Morgan, has revealed that it has signed up 75 banks to its live blockchain service.

The New York global banking giant is flexing its blockchain muscle to speed up global payments with its Interbank Information Network (IIN) launched in 2017. The Quorum-based blockchain has attracted the Union Bank of the Philippines as its first signing. Among other banks on the network will be Australia’s ANZ, one of the country’s big four, and Japan’s second-largest bank by assets, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp.

The move records the largest number of banks to join a live application of blockchain technology. It is unsurprising that JP Morgan is taking the blockchain route with such a big step, given comments earlier this year by the bank’s crypto-skeptic CEO Jamie Dimon, who argued:

“I probably shouldn’t say any more about cryptocurrency. But it’s not the same as gold or fiat currencies. Those are supported by law, police, courts. They’re not replicable, and there are strictures on them. Blockchain, on the other hand, is real. We’re testing it and will use it for a whole lot of things.”

Emma Loftus, JP Morgan’s head of global payments and receivables explains the thinking behind the multiple bank signings commenting, “We saw tremendous interest among correspondent banks after the pilot launched in 2017, asking if they could join.” She asserts that the IIN will make cross-border payments a far more speedy and efficient service, improving efficiency as more banks join the system.

When it comes to cryptocurrency, JP Morgan appears to vacillate between rejection, tolerance or possible adoption, depending on the spokesperson at any given time, many of whom have now moved on, some to launch their own startups, such as Amber Baldet, the original face of the Quorum project. Of the bank’s future, Takis Georgakopoulos, global head of treasury services, maintains that blockchain is a tool for the future:

“We’ve been actively exploring how emerging technologies such as blockchain, AI (artificial intelligence), and an enhanced digital experience can be deployed in our treasury services business to better serve our clients’ ever-changing needs.”


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PwC: 84% of Companies Active in Blockchain but More Trust Needed

A new report out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) illustrates the degree to which companies are now seeing blockchain as an essential business tool.

The report shows that out of companies surveyed, 84% were actively involved in blockchain technology in some way. The PwC 2018 Global Blockchain Survey included 600 company executives for 15 different regions.

Everyone is talking about blockchain, and no one wants to be left behind,” reported PwC, adding, “In reality, companies confront trust issues at nearly every turn… As with any emerging technology, challenges and doubts exist around blockchain’s reliability, speed, security and scalability.”

Some 45% of executives said that trust was the only issue that might prevent it moving forward, along with regulatory uncertainty, and compliance and intellectual property concerns. Other research from Cowan suggests that it make take up to six years for acceptance and widespread adoption.

Bloomberg read the PwC figures from a completely different perspective, suggesting that “most companies aren’t diving into blockchain”, pointing out that out of the 600 companies surveyed, “only 15% of them have a live project and only 10% are piloting blockchain’s use”.

Bloomberg suggests that the reason that many companies haven’t leapt in wholeheartedly and adopted blockchain is down to the cost of replacing current systems. Plus companies need to be convinced that there are significant advantages over their existing systems which at this stage is difficult to prove. Graine Mcnamara of PwC explained:

“It’s a little bit stunning how stagnant it is. A lot of people took a few steps and are pausing before the bridge. They might be having a hard time articulating the ROI.”

What must be a considerable selling point to companies is the fact that major players such as Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, Deloitte, JPMorgan and HSBC all have blockchain initiatives either in progress or planned for the future. It is likely that as these initiatives prove their worth the industry will take a more active interest. The interest shown by Facebook this year is likely to add to this impetus.


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Blockchain Startups Refusing to Fail in the First Few Years Will Make History

Many CEOs and cryptocurrency experts are suggesting that many startups will fail but those remaining have the potential to be huge successes thanks to the blockchain, writes Business Insider.

References to the dotcom bubble have been made too many times for it to be an original view but pundits from within the industry continue to predict that cryptocurrencies have the potential to change/rewrite the rules of financial markets.

eToro CEO,Yoni Assia’s view that 95% of startups are going to end up badly is shared by many in the industry, suggesting that ‘Selling crypto now is like selling Apple in 2001’ he goes on to suggest that it’s the survivors who will reap the benefits and changed the face of the market, in the same way as the internet transformed people’s lives by becoming a feature of everyone’s lives.

Statistics show that more than 1,000 cryptocurrency startups worldwide have raised over $10 billion over the last two years to build significant market changing software projects. Over $9 billion has been raised through ICOs since the start of the year, according to consultancy Autonomous NEXT.

These views were shared by Ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin recently, suggesting the current situation is similar to the nineties’ dot-com bubble, which ended badly for many companies, but left the survivors thriving. Assia argues:

“If you’re into this technology, you’re like, why hasn’t everybody moved on to this technology? It’s an endless opportunity to move things on to the blockchain. You have an insane amount of very smart people who are envisioning this future and trying to build products for it.”

IOTA creator Dominik Schiener also shares the view suggesting that out of 1400 recent projects he expects less than 10 to make it. With former JPMorgan trader Danny Masters, it could be an even smaller figure: suggesting that no more than 5% percent of ICOs are worth backing.

Many pundits and crypto experts see digital currency’s underlying technology blockchain as the factor that will be the most transformational aspect of the predicted crypto boom, some going as far as to suggest it will “remake society.” A recent Forbes article suggested that in a study of 4,800 professionals from around the world, 66% of people believe that innovation will be the biggest factor influencing economic growth over the next 30 years, and one of the most promising of these developments was blockchain.

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Dutch Central Bank Rejects Below-Par Blockchain System

The Netherland’s central bank, De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB), has posted a blog post saying that as yet, blockchain is not fit for purpose in terms of being a payment system.

The bank maintains that that DLT won’t suit the central bank’s existing financial structure primarily due to lack of scalability with large volumes of transactions. The DNB was referring to a series of tests conducted over a period of three years called project Dukaton, testing four DLT prototypes.

The Dukaton team applied different consensus algorithms and validation mechanisms in the later stages of the tests, after experimenting with an original prototype based on the Bitcoin blockchain.

The bank admits that the blockchain does offer benefits, in that it can increase the bank’s resistance to external attacks, but the downside pointed to poor levels in terms of “scalability, capacity, and efficiency”.

“The current payment systems are very efficient, can handle large volumes and provide the legal certainty of payment. The blockchain solutions tested show that they are not sufficiently efficient, with regard to costs and energy consumption, and they cannot handle large numbers of transactions,” the post read.

The bank is prepared to look again, further down the track, to see if a better-designed algorithm might better be able to meet the technological requirements of Holland’s financial system.

In similar work, South Africa’s central bank yesterday announced positive results for the trial of its blockchain-based system for interbank clearance and settlement, after conducting a 14-week proof of concept trial. The trial settled the country’s 70,000 daily payment transactions within two days using a Quorum blockchain platform, the same as that developed by JPMorgan.

The South African central bank has now established its own self-regulatory organization to oversee crypto industry developments aimed at preventing “systemic risk”, although the bank stressed it was cautious not to “throttle growth”.


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Amber Baldet Steps Down From JPMorgan, Pursues Own Startup

Amber Baldet, the face of JPMorgan’s corporate blockchain project Quorum and former head at the bank’s Blockchain Center of Excellence, has stepped down from her post. Baldet is reportedly seeking to head up her own blockchain startup, after having set the direction for much of JPMorgan’s blockchain ventures.

According to Fortune, a JPMorgan spokesperson confirmed Baldet’s resignation, adding in a statement that “We respect her desire to start her own venture and we wish her nothing but the best.”.

An internal bank memo released on Monday indicated that Baldet’s replacement had already been appointed. She will be replaced by Christine Moy, currently a senior product manager at the bank’s blockchain center. Moy, incidentally, was the first hire made by Baldet during her tenure, hinting that she had handpicked her successor.

Moy will be expected to continue JPMorgan’s push into corporate blockchain technology, primarily through its Quorum private blockchain, which is self-described as “an enterprise-focused version of Ethereum”. Its popularity has already fueled rumors of a spinoff, in the belief that a platform independent from the bank could appeal to a wider audience.

Moy had been working closely with Bardet in JPMorgan and was most recently leading product development across its investor services and capital markets businesses.

Bardet “overwhelmed” by support

A popular figure in the industry, well-wishers and offers appear to be inundating Baldet’s social media accounts. She today tweeted that “… I currently have 2,080 LinkedIn requests and my DMs are basically melting. This level of support is amazing and a bit overwhelming.”

So I currently have 2,080 LinkedIn requests and my DMs are basically melting. This level of support is amazing and a bit overwhelming. Please hang tight if I don’t respond right away, I’m working on it! 🙏🏻🥂

— Amber (@AmberBaldet) April 3, 2018

Amber Baldet, 35, is a regular attendant at hacker conferences, seen as one of the few in the blockchain industry to successfully assume the seemingly contrasting landscapes of the corporate realm and crypto sphere. Bloomberg has described her as “comfortable in the bank world as well as the cypherpunk or crypto community, and she seems equally authentic for both”.


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