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Inside Onyx: How JPMorgan’s blockchain unit is changing banking

The chief executive of JPMorgan’s Onyx blockchain business explains why it has been a long slog, and where the interest lies today after the crypto collapse.

Umar Farooq, Onyx

Umar Farooq is chief executive of Onyx by JPMorgan, a unit of the US house that leverages blockchain technologies for transformative purposes in banking.

Euromoney caught up with him in Singapore on the fringes of the country’s annual fintech festival, which took place in person for the first time since 2019. Our interview was prompted by JPMorgan’s role on a landmark decentralised finance (DeFi) deal stewarded by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

But it also afforded the opportunity to hear Farooq’s thoughts on some of the big digital concerns of the day.

One of them is tokenization. That DeFi deal is a prime example, involving the tokenization both of cash and of government securities.

In theory, anything can be tokenized: bonds, loans, private markets like Series A or B funding rounds. But in practice, what is going to work?

“Some asset classes definitely don’t fit,” Farooq says. “Equities are an example, because they’re already so efficient that there may not be significant incremental benefits with current blockchain technology. And on the other end of the spectrum, you have syndicated loans, which are very complex assets that can takes weeks to settle.”