- JPMorgan thinks bitcoin is an "economic side show," despite the cryptocurrency's monster rally.
- Bitcoin has gained traction with major Wall Street banks and Fortune 500 companies like Tesla and Mastercard.
- The rise of digital finance is the "real financial transformation story of the Covid-19 era," according to JPMorgan.
Bitcoin is an "economic side show" and fintech innovation is the story that will dominate financial services, according to JPMorgan.
Analysts at the bank said that despite bitcoin's monster rally, the cryptocurrency is still beset by a number of issues that may prevent it from becoming a mainstream asset.
"Bitcoin prices have continued their meteoric rise with Tesla, BNY Mellon and Mastercard's announcements of greater acceptance of cryptocurrencies," JPMorgan said in a research note last week.
"But fintech innovation and increased demand for digital services are the real Covid-19 story with the rise of online start-ups and expansion of digital platforms into credit and payments."
Bitcoin has gained traction with major Wall Street banks and Fortune 500 companies, a development which has boosted its price and saw it hit $1 trillion in market value last week.
Investors have drawn comparisons between bitcoin and gold, viewing the former as a new digital store of value thanks to its limited supply — the total number of bitcoins that will ever exist is capped at 21 million.
JPMorgan's own strategists say that bitcoin could rally as high as $146,000 as it competes with gold as a potential hedge against inflation in the coronavirus crisis.
Still, skeptics remain unconvinced. Economists like Nouriel Roubini say that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have no intrinsic value. And a recent Deutsche Bank survey said investors view bitcoin as the most extreme bubble in financial markets.
JPMorgan's strategists said current bitcoin prices appear to be "unsustainable" unless the cryptocurrency becomes less volatile. They added their $146,000 price target hinged on bitcoin's volatility "converging to that of gold," which would likely take years to happen.
Meanwhile, cryptocurrencies have "questionable diversification benefits" and rank as the "poorest hedge" against significant drops in stock prices, JPMorgan's analysts said.
The bank has been making a push into blockchain technology with its own cryptocurrency called JPM Coin and a new business unit called Onyx.
The rise of digital finance and demand for fintech alternatives is the "real financial transformation story of the Covid-19 era," according to JPMorgan.
"Competition between banks and fintech is intensifying, with Big Tech possessing the most potent digital platforms due to their access to customer data," the bank said.
"'Co-opetition' between 'Fin' and 'Tech' players lies ahead, with banks stepping up investment to narrow the technology gap, and the battle between US banks and non-bank fintech is also playing out on the regulatory front."
Major tech companies like Apple and Google have shown increased interest in financial services lately. Apple launched its own credit card in partnership with Goldman Sachs, while Google is letting its users open checking accounts following a tie-up with Citigroup.
"Traditional banks could emerge as endgame winners in the digital age of banking due to their advantage from deposit franchise, risk management and regulation," JPMorgan said.
Digital banking has boomed in the coronavirus era, with large lenders and fintechs alike seeing a surge in adoption as people are spending more time at home due to public health restrictions.