JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM) has announced that it is experimenting with using the architecture of the ethereum blockchain to create novel financial solutions for itself and its customers. According to media source Coindesk, the project was unveiled last month, and was more recently demonstrated during an industry convention in Geneva. This follows other blockchain-related announcements from competitors such as Bank of America Corp (BAC)—which is partnering with Microsoft (MSFT) and UBS Group Inc. (UBS)—in collaboration with International Business Machine Corp (IBM). (For more, see: Bitcoin Vs Ethereum: Driven by Different Purposes.)

JP Morgan's Ethereum Implementation

JP Morgan is using a private (non-public) iteration of the smart-contract focused ethereum protocol, in a system it is calling Quorum. It was developed in partnership with blockchain startup EthLab, and it is one of the first projects to come out of an innovation lab within JP Morgan known as the Blockchain Center of Excellence. Of course, the bank will keep much of Quorum's intellectual property to itself, but it is creating a developer's kit (SDK) to allow outside programmers the chance to build off of the platform. They also plan to bring other financial firms into the fold. Amber Baldet, program lead for the Quorum division, explained, "while our current applications using Quorum function within JP Morgan, releasing the software is an important stepping stone to launching projects with other organizations."

Quorum is now the second major blockchain offering to come out of JP Morgan. Earlier this year, the bank showcased a platform called Juno, meant to be a "distributed crypto-ledger" to enable quick value transfers between network parties. Quorum is novel in that by using ethereum as a backbone, it can add logic and scripting to its platform via smart contracts. Smart contracts are decentralized, self-executing pieces of code that do not need the mediation of a third-party—such as a stock exchange, legal system or government regulator. This may help the bank and its partners cut down on administrative costs, legal and regulatory oversight, and increase transparency. (For related reading, see: Blockchain Technology To Revolutionize Traditional Banking.)

The Bottom Line

JP Morgan has announced its second entrant into the blockchain fray, this time utilizing the smart contract enabled ethereum blockchain in creating a system called Quorum. Meant to lead to further collaboration, the company is allowing outside developers to tinker with it via an SDK as well as seeking partners from within the financial sector.