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JPMorgan steps up as first big US bank offering broad retail crypto funds access

The news: JPMorgan Chase has made history as the first big US bank to offer crypto funds to retail customers beyond the very wealthy, per Insider. The banking giant told wealth-management advisors that, beginning July 19, they could receive trading orders for five funds invested in the asset class: Four are offered by Grayscale Investments and one is available from Osprey Funds

More on this: The funds give investors indirect exposure to Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Ethereum Classic. The investment vehicles are available to JPMorgan clients who use a variety of wealth-management products: self-directed customers that use the bank’s Chase trading app, mass-affluent JPMorgan Advisors users, and ultrarich private bank customers.

The bank is limiting trades to “unsolicited” ones, meaning that advisors can only execute transactions at the client’s request. 

JPMorgan’s move marks a 180-degree turnaround from the dim view of crypto assets that it formerly took: In 2017, CEO Jamie Dimon threatened to sack employees who were trading Bitcoin. Since then, Dimon has relaxed his stance on crypto, but he recently remarked that he’s still not a fan. Despite the views of JPMorgan’s top boss, its clients have been clamoring for crypto as an investment, wealth-management division leader Mary Callahan Erdoes said to Bloomberg.

The big takeaway: By hopping onboard the crypto bandwagon, JPMorgan can discourage outflows of its wealth-management clients who are interested in dabbling in cryptocurrency to fintechs like Robinhood and Coinbase, and keep those clients inside of its ecosystem. The move may also help the bank retain the deposits of Chase retail banking customers who may be pulling them to buy crypto.

A decision by the biggest banking player in the US to offer broad retail access to crypto will help legitimize the handling of these assets by incumbents. Watch for other established US banks to take action on retail crypto investing. If JPMorgan’s move starts a trend, crypto trading could quickly transition from a nice-to-have to a need-to-have.