Goldman Shuns JPMorgan's Dimon - Plans Bitcoin Trading Operation

While JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said he "would fire" any employee found trading Bitcoin, Goldman Sachs' leadership is embracing reality as WSJ reports the bank is weighing a new trading operation dedicated to bitcoin and other digital currencies.

On the heels of IMF Chief Christine Lagarde's comments that:

"... the technology itself can replace national monies, conventional financial intermediation, and even puts a question mark on the fractional banking model we know today... So I think it may not be wise to dismiss virtual currencies."

Bitcoin's price has continued higher - erasing the losses from China and Jamie Dimon's comments...

And now, according to people familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal reports that Goldman Sachs is the first blue-chip Wall Street firm preparing to deal directly in this burgeoning yet controversial market.

“In response to client interest in digital currencies we are exploring how best to serve them in this space,” a Goldman spokeswoman said.

Goldman’s effort is in its early stages and may not proceed, the people said. The firm’s interest, though, could boost bitcoin’s standing among investors and fuel the debate around digital currencies, which were initially viewed as havens for illicit activity but are pushing further into the mainstream investment world.

Goldman’s seeks to serve a growing cadre of institutional investors wagering on bitcoin.

Its effort could eventually entail a team of traders and salespeople making markets in bitcoins much as they do Japanese yen or shares of Apple Inc.

Keeping abreast of the day-to-day cryptocurrency market could also position Goldman to capitalize on further development of this market. Digital-currency proponents envision a world where coins will be widely accepted by online retailers and companies will use the tokens for cross-border commerce.

Some 70 hedge funds now invest in cryptocurrencies, according to Autonomous NEXT.

Already, a handful of nonbank finance firms, such as DRW Holdings LLC’s Cumberland Mining and Genesis Global Trading Inc., broker bitcoin trades for institutional investors that want to buy or sell larger amounts than exchanges could handle.

That is a role that banks could easily step into.

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This is going to be hard for Dimon to swallow...

But we do suggest a slight hesitation to the squid embracing another illiquid asset-class. We suspect as far as volatility goes - you ain't seen nothing yet.

With its fixed-income division revenues down 21% from last year through June, dragged down by poor performance in commodities and currencies (both near record lows in volatility), it appears Goldman is looking for another asset - with volatility - to trade.

WSJ also notes that Goldman’s effort involves both its currency-trading division and the bank’s strategic investment group, the people said. That suggests the firm believes bitcoin’s future is more as a payment method rather than a store of value, like gold.