Finance

JPMorgan, led by bitcoin skeptic Jamie Dimon, quietly unveils access to a half-dozen crypto funds

Key Points
  • On Thursday, financial advisors were allowed to begin placing private bank clients into a new bitcoin fund created with crypto firm NYDIG, according to people with knowledge of the move.
  • Late last month, JPMorgan rolled out access to four funds from Grayscale Investments and one from Osprey Funds, according to the people.
  • The sources declined to be identified speaking about the offerings, each citing an awkward fact: JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has been one of Wall Street's most outspoken skeptics of bitcoin and related digital assets.
Jamie Dimon, chairman and chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co., listens during a Business Roundtable CEO Innovation Summit discussion in Washington, D.C., Dec. 6, 2018.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

With little fanfare, JPMorgan Chase has started giving its wealth management clients access to six crypto funds in the past month.

On Thursday, financial advisors were allowed to begin placing private bank clients into a new bitcoin fund created with crypto firm NYDIG, according to people with knowledge of the move. The fund is nearly identical to one NYDIG offers to clients of rival bank Morgan Stanley, said the people.

Late last month, JPMorgan rolled out access to four funds from Grayscale Investments and one from Osprey Funds: Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, Grayscale Bitcoin Cash Trust, Grayscale Ethereum Trust, Grayscale Ethereum Classic Trust and Osprey Bitcoin Trust, said the people.

The sources declined to be identified speaking about the offerings, each citing an awkward fact: JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has been one of Wall Street's most outspoken skeptics of bitcoin and related digital assets.

VIDEO0:5900:59
Dimon: JPMorgan coin could be used by consumers one day

The moves by JPMorgan, the biggest U.S. bank by assets, makes it clear that Wall Street's years-long reluctance to deal with cryptocurrencies is over. It follows earlier steps by rivals Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs to offer bitcoin funds to clients, CNBC first reported, and hundreds of smaller banks have lined up to do the same.

While Dimon has called bitcoin a "fraud" that wouldn't end well, there were signs that his resistance was eroding. Earlier this year, pressure at JPMorgan was building as clients asked for bitcoin exposure and employees openly pondered when the bank would get involved.

Early signs

In May, with his bank in advanced negotiations with crypto firms to offer the array of funds, Dimon reiterated that he still didn't support bitcoin. But he conceded that "clients are interested, and I don't tell clients what to do."

Spokesmen for JPMorgan's wealth management division and NYDIG declined to comment for this story.

Greg King, CEO of Osprey Funds, said in a statement that he was "pleased JPMorgan's clients will now have access to the lowest-priced publicly traded bitcoin fund in the U.S."

A Grayscale spokeswoman said that the firm is "excited to see that respected financial institutions such as JPMorgan are listening and responding to growing investor interest in digital currencies."

Muted rollout

Still, the muted rollout of the products this summer is a sign of the bank's ambivalence to bitcoin.

JPMorgan advisors aren't allowed to recommend the Grayscale or Osprey funds, but can only respond to client requests, according to Business Insider, which reported earlier on the fund additions.

And while the bank is making those funds widely available across its various wealth management platforms, only private bank clients can access the NYDIG fund.

That may be because the NYDIG product gives more direct access to ownership of bitcoin, held in cold storage by the crypto firm, rather than the other funds, which are shares in a trust that's backed by bitcoin. Private bank clients typically have at least $10 million in assets and are considered more sophisticated investors.

The NYDIG fund is being marketed as one of the least expensive and safest ways to gain bitcoin exposure, according to Coindesk, which reported on the product earlier.

The fund is also being touted as having the ability to be seamlessly rolled into an ETF in the future, should one gain regulatory approval, one of the people said.

Become a smarter investor with CNBC Pro
Get stock picks, analyst calls, exclusive interviews and access to CNBC TV. 
Sign up to start a free trial today.