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(Kitco News) – JPMorgan is beginning to warm up to the blockchain. The largest bank in the U.S. by assets has signaled its intentions to open a crypto innovation lab in Athens, Greece to foster development in blockchain technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and cryptography.
According to a report from E-Financial Careers, Tryone Lobbam, head of JPMorgan’s DeFi platform Onyx, revealed that JPMorgan is “opening an Innovation Lab in Athens, with an initial focus on building blockchain-related capabilities in support of Onyx.”
Onyx, which was developed by the bank in 2020, is a blockchain-based platform for wholesale payments transactions.
The new crypto lab currently has four open engineering roles that range in seniority from associate to executive director, including positions for two full-stack developers, one mobile app engineer and a launch technical manager.
The mobile app engineer will also be responsible for creating “performant blockchain-based Digital Identity mobile apps and wallet prototypes,” according to Lobban, who added that “digital identity is key to unlocking scale for web3 and can enable entirely new interactions and services for web2 and web3 alike.”
This development from New York-based JPMorgan comes at an interesting time for the global economy as the bank is laying off traditional engineering roles at the same time it’s hiring blockchain talent, suggesting that a shift is occurring in the way traditional finance is approaching the realm of blockchain.
Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan – who also happens to be Greek-American – is well known for his consistent anti-crypto comments over the years.
“I’m a major skeptic on crypto tokens, which you call currency, like Bitcoin,” Dimon said during testimony before the House Financial Services Committee in September. “They are decentralized Ponzi schemes, and the notion that it’s good for anybody is unbelievable.”
Crypto can also be “dangerous,” Dimon added, pointing to billions of dollars stolen via hacking, theft, and other schemes in addition to issues such as money laundering. In October 2021, the CEO called Bitcoin worthless when it was trading close to its all-time highs. The crypto winter of 2022-23 has only served to further cement Dimon’s opinion of the asset class.
The launch of the new crypto lab highlights JPMorgan and Jamie Dimon’s focus on “blockchain, not Bitcoin,” which has become a common phrase in mainstream financial circles, alluding to the promising functionalities of blockchain technology while shunning what they deem to be “speculative assets with no intrinsic value.”
Despite the history of negative comments from Dimon, JPMorgan has slowly increased its engagement with the crypto community over the past year from its position as the leading U.S. bank.
In November, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved the bank’s trademark application for the “JP Morgan Wallet,” which is designed to transfer and exchange virtual currencies, facilitate crypto payment processing, and support virtual checking accounts and financial services in general.
The trademark filing also showed that JPMorgan is preparing to provide crypto wallet services for members of online communities in multiple countries, offering support for various languages and currencies.
November also saw the bank participate in a project with the Monetary Authority of Singapore that sought to pilot use cases of digital assets and decentralized finance (DeFi) where JPMorgan conducted its first live trade on a public blockchain. The bank has also partnered with Visa to work on developing cross-border payments through the use of their private blockchain networks Liink and B2B Connect.
And it’s not just JPMorgan that is wading deeper into the crypto ecosystem. According to a report released by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC) Office of Inspector General, as of January, “the FDIC was aware that 136 insured banks had ongoing or planned crypto asset-related activities. For example, these banks have arrangements with third parties that allow bank customers to buy and sell crypto assets. Banks also provide account deposit services, custody services, and lending to crypto asset exchanges.”
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