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Ripple’s Brad Garlinghouse Slates JPMorgan’s JPM Coin as Lacking Innovation

Wall Street banking giant JPMorgan’s announcement of its new stable coin JPM Coin, has Ripple’s boss Brad Garlinghouse criticizing its “closed network” lack of innovation.

JPMorgan says it sees potential in using digital coins to reduce risk and enable instant transfers, despite JPMorgan’s chief executive Jamie Dimon criticizing Bitcoin since it emerged as the industry’s flagship cryptocurrency.

The bank says it has always “believed in the potential of blockchain technology”. “We are supportive of cryptocurrencies as long as they are properly controlled and regulated,” says Umar Farooq, JPMorgan’s head of Digital Treasury Services and Blockchain. The new JPM coin will be transferable between client accounts at the bank, who will then be able to redeem them for US dollars pegged at parity with the coin.

With the arrival of JPM, the volatility of Ripple’s XRP is brought into question and certainly draws obvious comparisons, to which Garlinghouse has reacted by saying there is nothing innovative about JPMorgan’s final arrival into the cryptocurrency space, arguing:

“As predicted, banks are changing their tune on crypto. But this JPM project misses the point – introducing a closed network today is like launching AOL after Netscape’s IPO.”

His comments very much echo the sentiments illustrated in an article he wrote two years ago called “The Case Against BankCoin,” in which he argued that banks should be using XRP as the obvious independent digital asset, claiming they offered “universality” which bank coins did not:

“It goes back to the fundamentals of what makes digital assets unique and special – they’re universal currencies, meaning anyone can use them as units of value anywhere in the world. That universality gives digital assets global reach and the ability to settle much faster than traditional assets.”

Clearly, Ripple’s executives would argue that users of XRP also has the added option to speculate, holding on to the currency in the hope of trading later at a higher value; compared to bank coins which will only have a fixed settlement value based on parity with the US dollar.

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JPMorgan Introduces Its Own Digital Coin With Institutions in Mind

JPMorgan Introduces Its Own Digital Coin with Institutions in Mind

Major US-based multinational investment bank JPMorgan announced yesterday that it has launched a digital coin that will be backed by the US dollar.

A major breakthrough for cryptocurrencies which had for a long time been blighted in some circles as being untrustworthy, or so would some think. As a matter of fact, JPMorgan was among those in 2017 who ridiculed cryptocurrency and specifically called Bitcoin a fraud. Although its perspective on the subject of blockchain industry as well as properly controlled and regulated cryptocurrencies was that it held promise. Now, it stands as the first major US bank creating a digital coin and one among others in the traditional banking industry to create a real-world application of blockchain technology.

Consequently, this development has aroused some controversial sentiments within the crypto community. According to MarketWatch, Jerry Brito – executive director at Coin Center told the news outlet that the JPM coin isn’t a cryptocurrency but an in-house-built payment system. The bank did clarify on the differences between its digital coin and cryptocurrencies, however, it is a popular sentiment that any product built on the blockchain is assumed to come with the tag ‘cryptocurrency’.

As explained on the bank’s website, it appears that the JPM coin isn’t a legal tender, but a digital coin backed by the US dollar – not a stablecoin either – stored in designated accounts of JPMorgan Chase. The bank said that when one client sends money to another over the blockchain, JPM Coins are transferred and instantaneously redeemed for the equivalent amount of US dollars, reducing the typical settlement time.

The JPM coin will only be used between its institutional clients as the core purpose of the coin is to save time for inter-bank/institution settlements, leveraging the robustness of the blockchain as opposed to legacy systems of money transfers. Accordingly, the coin will not be available to individuals, however, the bank says that the rippling effect in the efficiency of money transfer will confer certain benefits to individuals.

The bank may not stop at the digital coin alone, it said in its news release that with respect to its other businesses like custody or clearing and settlement, “it’s still too early to assess the ultimate impact of blockchain,” and it intends to further explore areas of applicability as it works with clients around the world. Perhaps, it may join the list of financial institutions proposing to offer custody solutions in an attempt to cater to institutional investors willing to join the crypto derivative market once the system is well regulated.

Blockchain-related trends in the banking industry have been growing of late with expanding use cases specific to interfacing with the technology to facilitate money transfers between financial institutions. As reported in December last year, Signature Bank’s Signet may have been the first regulator-approved blockchain-based payment system developed by a bank. It was designed to eliminate third parties and process payments faster between the bank’s clients.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been discussing plans on developing a blockchain-based cross-border payment system for inter-bank relations.

Moreover, the subject of a state-backed central bank digital currency (CBDC) has been frequently discussed in many banking circles. However, the views on such development have been rather polarized. Perhaps, this step made by JPMorgan will further facilitate the adoption of different blockchain use cases for other banks as they race for inclusion into the emerging market.

 

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Virginia Police Retirement Fund Sets Sights on Bitcoin with $11 Million Investment

Part of a police retirement fund in Fairfax County Virginia is to be invested in the cryptocurrency industry as part of a plan to allocate money towards safe investments.

The allocation of retirement funds will be invested through Morgan Creek who will use the fund to invest in companies such as Coinbase and Bakkt, among others. Morgan Creek, which invests in blockchain companies, is to use USD 40 million from the two Fairfax county pension plans and other institutions.

The Virginia retirement system has invested USD 21 million into the fund with USD 10 million coming from the county’s employee’s retirement fund (0.3% of total assets) and USD 11 million from a police retirement fund (0.8% of total assets). This meant just under 1% of total assets were dedicated to cryptocurrency ventures. In the opinions of Fairfax County officials though, the funds are seen as a safe bet for retirees:

“All investments involve risk and this investment is no different. However, as they would do with any investment, Fairfax’s investment team determined that the expected returns from this investment were in line with the level of risk incurred. This also played a big part in how much was invested.”

Morgan Creek has convinced Fairfax county to invest up to 15% of retirement funds into cryptocurrency projects although Fairfax County Retirement Systems Director Jeff Weiler has said that “no more than 15% of the funds will be invested in actual cryptocurrencies and, to-date, the Fund has no exposure to any cryptocurrencies”.

Morgan Creek’s Anthony Pompliano believes Bitcoin could still go below USD 3,000 although he points out that a recovery to USD 5,000 would result in a USD 5 million investment in Bitcoin returning a USD 1.9 million profit.

 

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California Governor Talks Blockchain During State of the State Speech

California Governor Talks Blockchain During State of the State Speech

California governor Gavin Newsom singled out blockchain and a few other emerging technologies in his state of the state speech this year and expressed his desire to help progress them and thus create more jobs.

In his speech, Newsom said:

“California needs a comprehensive statewide strategy to uplift and upskill our workers, to ensure technological advancements in AI, blockchain, big data, are creating jobs, not destroying them, and to reform our institutions so that more workers have an ownership stake in their sweat equity.”

The speech aired on Tuesday this week offers more investment and focus on blockchain technology from the state government, something that has not achieved much success in California despite the position of the state as a global tech hub. Silicon Valley, the center of innovation and innovation in the IT sector, is in this state but will need more support from the government before becoming one of the top blockchain promoting areas in the world.

Governor Newsom himself is one of the most progressive leaders at the state level when it comes to cryptocurrencies and blockchain as he started accepting Bitcoin donations as early as 2014. But, at the same time, Newsom has proactive positions on the protection of big data and consumer privacy and giving workers ownership stakes in companies. While these positions aren’t exactly anti-crypto, they do present several challenges to the blockchain sector that need to be overcome.

Newsom has outlined several new moves to help progress blockchain in the state. However, the SEC’s indecisiveness and other issues out of his control will also affect the performance of this sector which isn’t in his control.

 

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Bank Outages Show System Vulnerabilities Bitcoin Users Avoid

Bank Outages Show System Vulnerabilities Bitcoin Users Avoid

As the traditional banking system continues to incorporate electronic and digital payments, the latest Wells Fargo outage illustrates that all is not well in the light of similar events this year with other major card service suppliers.

With the US’s fourth-largest bank by assets falling foul of an ATM glitch in its system last week, denying customers access to their funds, Bitcoin- and cryptocurrency-dedicated websites and blogs wasted no time in pointing the way to hassle-free access to savings. Even though Wells Fargo suggested they had fixed the issue, customers continued to be shut out of their accounts on their computers or smartphones for days.

The company really didn’t need this problem after the most ironic case for cryptocurrency investors last year when Wells Fargo was hit with a USD 575 million settlement after scamming its customers over a period of 15 years; this after they had conducted their own poll of US investors in 2018, claiming a skeptical 72% majority “have no interest in ever buying Bitcoin” and 75% who find Bitcoin to be “very risky”.

As banking institutions race to upgrade systems, some admitting that blockchain may be a bonafide solution to the problem, outages continue to plague the banks. Both Mastercard and Visa went down in the space of a few weeks in July last year, both companies receiving a deluge of customer complaints from those unable to complete payments, along with a barrage of crypto tweets advocating Bitcoin.

In Europe, Spanish-owned British bank TSB also suffered a protracted meltdown in their system locking out customers for days costing the bank some USD 425 million and alienating account holders. David Thomas of cryptocurrency brokerage GlobalBlock couldn’t resist commenting on Wells Fargo’s latest misfortune:

“All manners of sardonic posts have been seen on social media channels following the event with many finding it hard to believe that in this day and age the infrastructure could be quite so antiquated and vulnerable to a melt-down.”

 

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Chinese Billionaire Claims Bitcoin Patience Will Reap Rewards

Chinese Billionaire Claims Bitcoin Patience Will Reap Rewards

As the much-discussed intuitional investment, hailed as cryptocurrencies jumpstart to a new crypto era, still awaits, a Chinese Bitcoin billionaire calls for patience.

Zhao Dong, one of the world’s largest over-the-counter traders of Bitcoin, made the plea to the industry suggesting that it could be well into the year before the market gets the boost it needs. The entrepreneur was talking on a WeChat group called “The Public Chain Alliance Crossing The Bulls And Bears Elite Team”, when he made the call for patience.

Zhao, another advocate of a USD 50,000 Bitcoin by 2021 not so long ago, said the “only thing you need is patience”, referring to a large investor surge into the market. He said that those who believed in the future of Bitcoin should hold “as much as possible when nobody cares”. He said also:

“In the bull market, I don’t persuade people to buy bitcoin, because it seems easy to make quick money but in fact, it is not. Now [in the bear market], I start to talk people into buying bitcoin.”

Zhao certainly is not alone, with other high flyers in the industry talking up the flagship cryptocurrency this year, with just Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey recently predicting that Bitcoin was to become the internet’s first “native currency”.

As Bitcoin investors and traders wait for the highly-anticipated Bakkt bitcoin platform and a US Bitcoin exchange-traded fund to boost the price, Mike Novogratz predicts Bitcoin is on the recovery after a bubble burst and that it is in a period of “handing off ownership from the people’s revolution“.

 

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Bitcoin ETF a “Virtual Certainty”, Says Financial Expert

Bitcoin ETF a

Talks about a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) have been in the works a while now, and some experts in mainstream finance still believe it’s only a matter of time before one is granted. Ric Edelman, co-founder of Edelman Financial Services, insisted in an interview with CNBC that a Bitcoin ETF was “virtually certain”.

The derivative market for Bitcoin and altcoins are still a nascent development and while many mainstream financial players may have been watching from a distance, some have drawn closer to become pioneers from the traditional system to venture into cryptocurrency-related markets built on the topology of the traditional market.

Edelman’s comment that it was only a matter of time, adds yet another to many recent speculations that continue to draw the spotlight on Bitcoin in mainstream finance.

Bitcoin News reported earlier how mainstream financial players are considering hedging 1% of their portfolio funds to bitcoin – playing it safe with almost nothing to lose. Edelman also agreed to this strategy implying that the price volatility of the Bitcoin market can have useful impacts when favorable, and minimal when the price dips – after all, it’s just 1% of funds in the portfolio that will be affected.

He further reiterated the concerns of the regulatory watchdog, suggesting that the concerns of the SEC with regards to the crypto industry are legitimate and thoughtful. While affirming his confidence in the cryptocurrency markets and the efforts of key drivers in the industry towards overcoming these challenges, he, however, feels the time isn’t right for ordinary investors to dive into crypto investments, and that the ETF may highlight that hallmark. He said:

“It’s at that stage [Bitcoin ETF] that I will be much more comfortable recommending that ordinary investors participate.”

The Cryptocurrency industry is one of the most dynamic and innovative financial systems. However, regulators have thought it wise to tread carefully due to the overwhelming issues currently plaguing the industry, which the SEC has bored down to two basics: custody infrastructure and market oversight concerns – given that the nature of digital assets built on the blockchain is essentially decentralized.

Edelman further opines that serious players are in the industry, and are pulling in resources to ensure that they surmount the challenges highlighted by the SEC.

After multiple rejected Bitcoin ETF applications last year and a withdrawn application earlier this year due to the United States government shutdown, Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), SolidX, as well as VanEck have reapplied with the SEC keeping fingers crossed.

At this point, there’s no doubt that there’s high demand for Bitcoin ETF; from mainstream financial institutions to current crypto market participants; everyone is eagerly waiting to see the ETF approval lift the long bear-ridden cycle of the market.

Logically, the expectations are hinged on the premise of a similar occurrence in the December 2017 hype-drive, when Bitcoin futures introduced into the market by CBOE and CME Group ushered in a new class of investors and traders, thereby propelling the price-value of Bitcoin as well as alt markets.

ETF is one among others in the pipeline of financial derivatives that may fully launch crypto into mainstream finance. Recently, LedgerX introduced a new derivative called Binary Wager that would bet on Bitcoin’s next halving date. This occurrence happens once in every four years, and the new instrument can be classed under the long term derivate market. Either way, it would seem a lot of individuals have long term expectations for Bitcoin as well as the crypto market in general.

 

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US Crypto Regulations Between a Rock and a Hard Place

US Crypto Regulations Between a Rock and a Hard Place

In the midst of the delay for the approval of Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) applications after several rejections, and current uncertainty regarding regulatory framework, US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Commissioner Hester Peirce provided insights into the matter as an opportunity for better industry development.

Last week, Heister made comments on the issues of state regulation at the University of Missouri School of Law where she opined that “entrepreneurship and innovation do not have the happiest relationship with innovation”, which may be the core reason why crypto ventures have suffered in the hands of most regulatory systems.

The SEC’s clamp down on non-compliant ICOs (issuing securities disguised as utility tokens), its rejection of Bitcoin ETF applications, and somewhat deliberate delay in providing a regulatory framework as regards the industry may have a more logical than malicious intent behind it. Innovations, while they make life easier most of the time, always come outside the norms, especially those of the regulatory system and often times drives regulators to accept changes despite skepticism.

“Regulators, for their part, tend to be skeptical of change because its consequences are difficult to foresee and figuring out how it fits into existing regulatory frameworks is difficult,” she said, implying that it’s not an easy task for the SEC to reject what seemingly looks like a financial innovation in an attempt to weigh and understand the situation correctly.

The last financial crisis has made it easier for trust issues to thrive, especially on the part of the regulator, given that some ascribe the crisis to be due to “financial innovations”. Peirce pointed out that “…every innovation — even one that almost everyone agrees is good — carries with it some risk”, something currently agreeable with the cryptocurrency system.

Accordingly, since innovations can be unpredictable, so caution must be applied when drafting regulatory frameworks, especially for a new industry such as blockchain and its underlying assets. Peirce continues by saying that “as regulators, therefore, we must allow innovation to proceed, even as we put in reasonable safeguards and watch for unanticipated consequences”, and still, it has to come with no comprise to the securities laws in place. It behooves one to imagine where the true line of trade-offs will be drawn, seeing that the core structure of the crypto industry lies in decentralization, which by implication makes it harder for any regulator.

Still, the regulatory polarity has created distinct shades of gray areas around the world. With the Chinese government adamant with its crypto ban, the Indian government chose a rather bizarre stance — first with a ban on banking services to crypto related ventures, and then planned to develop a state-backed cryptocurrency, which it shelved later on. Meanwhile, other jurisdictions have launched out to attract the “rejected”, by providing a safe haven to crypto ventures, and a few nations are developing their own state-backed crypto to augment their economies.

In the UK, the principal regulator has extended an invitation to the public through its consultation paper to better assess a possible way forward for industry regulations. It said in late January: “We are consulting on Guidance for crypto assets to provide regulatory clarity for market participants.” Meanwhile, in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has also hinted on possible ICO regulations to be introduced later this year.

So far, the crypto industry has had checkered developments and have more recently been in a stalemate (regardless of minor spikes in market dynamics), and many have been waiting eagerly for the next bull-run trigger. It’s basically what most crypto enthusiasts talk about these days, consequently, dialing down tech innovation, development and mass adoption of crypto products — at least, for the innovations that they stand for — and are relying on adjuncts gunning for more institutional involvement that would supposedly propel the market further.

While the US SEC does recognize the potential this innovative technology may provide, as Peirce says. “the United States has benefited greatly from the relative importance of non-bank financing”, supposedly placing them on par with the capital market. This further buttresses the point made by SEC boss Jay Clayton who viewed crypto as a “promise for adding efficiency to our [capital] marketplace”.

However, the regulatory watchdog maintains a stance of balance that involved protecting the interests of investors as market volatility, manipulation, hacks, frauds, exchange illiquidity, and a host of other unforeseen consequences from the unstandardized cryptosystem remain legitimate concerns.

Perhaps, when the SEC, as well as other financial regulators, have finally regulated the industry, these problems will be adequately tackled. Meanwhile, the regulator itself is waiting for the maturity of the industry marked by improved oversight on market surveillance, definitive asset classification, and airtight custody solutions, before embracing the industry wholeheartedly. But it still remains to be known at what cost?

The good news so far is that earlier this year, a bill was introduced in the House to help with asset classification, that partly takes care of one problem. Nasdaq introduced its SMARTS Market Surveillance solution which may have provided precedence in the direction of play towards controlling market manipulation. On the subject of custody solutions, crypto ventures are urged to ensure best cybersecurity practices. Fidelity, Coinbase, Gemini, BitGo, Ledger, ItBi and even Goldman Sachs are among many reportedly racing toward that end.

Peirce’s overall sentiment in a manner of speaking, perhaps one shared on both sides of the tussle is that the delay in drawing clear lines may actually allow more freedom for the technology to come into its own.

 

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Boston Startup Joins Atomic Swap Pursuit for Safer Crypto Trades

Boston Startup Joins Atomic Swap Pursuit for Safer Crypto Trades

The Boston Globe has reported on startup Arwen as one of a growing number of firms seeking to make cryptocurrency exchanges more secure by adding a layer of technology that would enable users to convert one currency to another with more safety.

Two Boston companies, Highland and Underscore, helped startup Arwen get started. The new firm was founded by a Boston University computer science professor and her doctoral student. Their plan is to create an extra layer of tech to protect transactions, based on an “atomic swap”.

This would allow users to swap cryptocurrency from different blockchains, without ever needing to hand over their tokens to an exchange as the mediator, as is the case with most traditional centralized exchanges. Effectively, the exchange matches orders but is non-custodial in the sense that users still retain control over their private keys and funds.

A group venture of capital firms and startups in Boston have identified cryptocurrencies as needing further safety standards to make them more safer. One of these firms, Castle Island Ventures, raised USD 30 million to work on the projects. Castle Island has already invested in six startup companies, other local firms like General Catalyst, First Star Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, and Underscore VC.

“The reason we launched the fund is we think a lot of these cryptocurrencies will be investible assets,” Castle Island Ventures founder Matthew Wash commented. “It’s bordering on a joke how immature the infrastructure is — and how dangerous it is… Every time I see one of these exchanges get hacked, or the founder take off with money in some kind of scam, it’s another reminder of how immature this industry is.”

““We’re in the early days,” says Arwen CEO Sharon Goldberg. “But let’s go back to 1999 and using credit cards on the Internet. Nobody wanted to put their credit card number into a website. But you do today, because you trust the encryption. You see that little lock in your browser.”

Goldberg points out the irony of using centralized exchanges to trade decentralized currency; adding that trusting software code is one thing, but trusting a centralized exchange is something quite different.

Arwen launched a sandbox environment for demonstrating the technology last month, and the company is now talking with prospective customers, mostly outside of the US, such as in Japan where exchanges are looking to improve current crypto technology.

 

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NYSE chairman Calls Bakkt a “Moonshot Bet”

Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange sees the eventual Bakkt launch as a “moonshot bet” according to its CEO and chairman of the NYSE, Jeff Sprecher.

Talking over the past few days, Sprecher says that he is optimistic that Bakkt will be worthwhile and sees ICE’s involvement as “different” claiming that the deal has “…been organized in a manner that is very different than the way ICE typically does businesses.”

Making the remarks at a conference call yesterday he suggested that there will be a launch this year, after earlier delays and the implications that it could be soon. “Bakkt has its own offices, its own management team, etc. They’re well along in building out an infrastructure that I think you’ll see launch later this year,” said ICE’s boss.

Bakkt, which will offer institutional investors bitcoin futures trading, should have gone live in January but was postponed partly due to the US government shutdown at the time. The claim is that Bakkt will provide custody and price discovery for bitcoin which will be free from market manipulation and fraud.

There is speculation that the move by NYSE could bring the long-awaited wave of institutional investment into the cryptocurrency space, thus rejuvenating the flagging market; a market which has seen some revitalization over the past 24 hours.

Scott Hill, ICE’s chief financial officer said that Bakkt-related expenses for the first quarter topped $20 million stating “Our investment in Bakkt will generate $20 million to $25 million of expense based upon the run rate in the first quarter.”

Sprecher said, by bringing in Starbucks and Microsoft the potential is for a “very valuable company” to be created.

 

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