Wells Fargo and JPMorgan have highlighted the contrasting views in US banking circles over the future viability of bitcoin, with the former willing to engage and the latter airily dismissing the digital currency as a passing fad.
Following a private summit on the digital currency at its HQ last week, Wells Fargo is stepping up its exploration of the potential of bitcoin by hosting an open discussion
in New York at the end of the month.
Entitled 'Virtual Currency: Viability, Compliance and Direction', the 28 January event will take place at the offices of venture capitalist firm Union Square Ventures. Moderated by Jim Richards, Wells Fargo's head of financial crime risk management, the meeting will feature five 15-minute presentations from representatives of law firm Buckley Sandler, Unions Square Ventures, Circle Internet, Coinbase and the US Justice Department.
The debate is open to the public, but due to space restrictions will be capped at 60 seats.
Wells Fargo's interest in the subject stands in stark contrast to the approach of JPMorgan, where chief executive Jamie Dimon has forecast a bleak future for bitcoin as a viable currency. Speaking to CNBC
, Dimon described bitcoin as "a terrible store of value", adding that it could be "replicated over and over".
He went on to attack the currency for its use as in illicit transactions, arguing that it will never stand up to regulatory scrutiny.
"It doesn't have the standing of a government," he said. "And people who will get upset with it is governments. Governments put a huge amount of pressure on banks: know who your client is, did you do real reviews of that. Obviously it's almost impossible to do with something like that."
His remarks have attracted the scorn of ardent bitcoin proponents, who point out the value of hard cash as an aide to nefarious criminal activities and the fact that banks themselves are no strangers to money laundering, given the huge fines levied on law-breaking financial institutions by regulators the world over.
However, Dimon doesn't think bitcoin will disappear overnight.
"They will eventually be made as a payment system to follow the same standards as the other payment systems and that will be probably be the end of them," he said.