Recently, JPMorgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon criticized the popular cryptocurrency bitcoin, claiming that it is overvalued and sure to fail. Dimon even said that he would fire any training employee of his company that considered partaking in the bitcoin market for being “stupid.”
Bitcoin launched in 2009 as a means of paying for items online without having to use a bank or other financial institution that takes a cut from online spending. In recent months, bitcoin’s use and value has boomed, increasing almost 315 percent this year. This is in large part due to the blockchain technology that underlies the currency.
This technology is critical to bitcoin because it is thought to have the potential to reshape the global financial system, as well as other industries. Blockchain can be used to move money abroad, sign contracts, clear complex financial transactions and make micropayments in emerging countries. It is predicted that bitcoin will eventually become a universal currency, linking the economies of the world.
Supporters hope that the currency will become a common medium of exchange, a store of wealth and a vehicle for legitimate speculation and hedging. Many, like Dimon, are suspicious of the bitcoin currency for numerous reasons.
Firstly, there is the potential of high price volatility. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies experience high price fluctuation regularly, creating an unstable market. Dimon said that he would not short bitcoin because it is unclear how high its price could increase, an uncertainty which could bankrupt traders. Besides this, bitcoin is highly unstable compared to fiat currency, and it is possible that the cryptocurrency is in a bubble, which means it could be overvalued.
Dimon believes that the currency cannot exist without state oversight and that governments will soon intervene. This sentiment was confirmed by the Chinese government’s recent ban on bitcoin in China. Critics like Dimon think that bitcoin is vulnerable to manipulation and that the blockchain technology is simply a more elaborate database.
Dimon compared the current cryptocurrency craze to the 17th century Dutch Tulip craze, in which the public used tulip bulbs as currency. After a short amount of time, the value of the bulbs increased so much that the tulip market crashed, and the bulbs became worthless. Although bitcoin is trying to serve the same purpose as the aforementioned tulip bulbs did, the difference between them is that bitcoin is monetized. This means that the value of the currency is greater than its current use value in transactions.
To get to the point that bitcoin enthusiasts envision as the future of cryptocurrencies, a steady and dedicated user base is necessary, which requires time and widespread adoption. It will also take time for authorial institutions to better understand cryptocurrencies and decide how to regulate them. Many investors believe that cryptocurrencies have no longevity, and will disappear before they become a major regulated currency. So far, bitcoin is yet to be adopted by any government.
Besides the lack of regulation and the instability, Dimon is worried about the potential criminal application of cryptocurrencies. He has stated that bitcoin and its ilk are particularly beneficial to people who are trying to keep their financial transactions secret, such as drug dealers and murderers. Likewise, financial institutions are also concerned about bitcoin’s early associations with money laundering and crime. Bitcoin initially slipped after Dimon’s remarks, going down as much as 8 percent before recovering.
Critics of Dimon say he is disparaging cryptocurrencies by suggesting that they pose a threat to JPMorgan Chase and other banks. As cryptocurrencies become more popular, central banks are increasing their involvement with them and their underlying blockchain technology. According to the Bank for International Settlements, one option for central banks is for them to be the only issuers of cryptocurrencies to the public.
However, this might increase the risk of bank runs, or lead to commercial lenders facing a shortage of deposits. Unlike Dimon, some of the most well-known figures on Wall Street are embracing the cryptocurrency. Fundstrat’s Tom Lee sees bitcoin surging to $6 billion next year, and value investor Bill Miller owns bitcoin. JPMorgan Chase is attempting to use blockchain to reduce trading costs.