Goldman Sachs(GS) CEO Lloyd Blankfein is the latest in a string of Wall Street titans to weigh in on Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that’s getting increasing attention in the mainstream business world. But the banking giant isn’t ready to pick a side in the industry’s raging debate over Bitcoin’s future.
“Still thinking about #Bitcoin,” Blankfein said on Twitter Tuesday. “No conclusion—not endorsing/rejecting. Know that folks were skeptical when paper money displaced gold.”
Blankfein’s Bitcoin comments come at a time when some Goldman Sachs clients have signaled interest in the cryptocurrency, which has surged 340% since the start of the year — a single unit is now worth about $4,300 according to CoinDesk. A representative for Goldman Sachs told The Wall Street Journal on Monday that the banking giant is considering starting its own Bitcoin operation.
Blankfein’s diplomatic take on Bitcoin contrasts with that of fellow banking heavyweight Jamie Dimon, CEO of J.P. Morgan (JPM). Dimon, a noted Bitcoin skeptic, recently said that anybody who trades Bitcoin is “stupid,” and that if he caught a J.P. Morgan trader making Bitcoin deals, he would “fire them in a second.” That drew the ire of Bitcoin’s diehard fanbase — one J.P. Morgan alum went as far as to tell Dimon to “STFU about trading $BTC.”
The rift between Blankfein and Dimon highlights the banking world’s struggles to make up its mind about Bitcoin. Some are bearish on the currency: Ray Dalio, founder of the world’s largest hedge fund, considers Bitcoin “a bubble.” BlackRock(BLK) CEO Larry Fink said he sees potential in Bitcoin, but added that it’s “far from” a feasible investment for institutional investors, as he told Bloomberg. “We’re not hearing any demand from any of our clients other than maybe some speculative stuff,” Fink said.
Others are less skeptical. Morgan Stanley (MS) CEO James Gorman said in September that he has not invested in the space, though he didn’t think it was a fad. “It’s obviously highly speculative, but it’s not something that’s inherently bad. It’s a natural consequence of the whole blockchain technology.”
Christine Lagarde, chief of the International Monetary Fund, said Monday that it’s foolish to dismiss virtual currencies. “Why might citizens hold virtual currencies rather than physical dollars, euros, or sterling? Because it may one day be easier and safer than obtaining paper bills, especially in remote regions,” Lagarde said.
Fidelity (FNF) CEO Abigail Johnson, meanwhile, even has a Bitcoin mining rig in her office. “I’m a believer,” Johnson said during a recent conference, Quartz reports. “I’m one of the few standing before you today from a large financial services company that has not given up on digital currencies. We set up a small Bitcoin and Ethereum mining operation . . . that miraculously now is actually making a lot of money.”