Blythe Masters: Special focus

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Blythe Masters became CEO of Digital Asset Holdings in 2015 after 27 years at JPMorgan, where she was credited as the creator of the credit default swap (CDS). Here is a round-up of Euromoney's coverage of Masters throughout her career.

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Sideways: A Hillary Clinton moment for Blythe Masters
24 January 17
Blythe Masters had what seemed to be a Hillary Clinton-on-election-night moment when Digital Asset, the firm where Masters is CEO, failed to win a role in the most significant blockchain application yet announced. 

Editor's note 
The following comment piece was submitted in response to Jon Macaskill’s column A Hillary Clinton moment for Blythe Masters:

Blockchain: Collaborate to innovate
28 February 17 
Robert Palatnick of the DTCC says that with so much activity occurring across the industry, it is critical that all parties place standards at the heart of their DLT initiatives. 

Blythe Masters-160x186

Blythe Masters,
Digital Asset Holdings

Banks takeover the blockchain

6 June 16 

Earlier this year Blythe Masters, the former JPMorgan banker who heads Digital Asset Holdings, spelled out at the Morgan Stanley financial services conference how blockchain is the ultimate example of what was once anathema to banks but which many are now desperate to implement – shared infrastructure. It can bring improved security through encryption, real-time regulatory reporting, but most important it can cut costs. 

“And we’re not talking five, 10 or 15% cuts in costs; we’re talking 30%, 40%, 50%,” according to Masters. “There’s only one way to do that and that is to share a mutualized common infrastructure that previously was kept separately and run independently by every market participant.”

Barclays looks outside for King successor
2 June 16
Barclays CEO Jes Staley is clearly in no desperate hurry: he merely wants to make an appointment this year. That said, he is thought to have approached former JPMorgan global head of commodities Blythe Masters late last year, only to have her turn it down to focus on her work as CEO of fintech firm Digital Asset Holdings.

Sideways: Masters 2.0 – Blythe and Bitcoin
30 March 15
Soon after Bill Winters was appointed CEO of Standard Chartered, his highest-profile protégé from their shared days at JPMorgan also announced a new job.

Abigail with attitude: Rise of opaque commodity houses
6 May 14
in April, Blythe Masters, the veteran JPMorgan banker, left the US firm. Forty-something, Blythe is part of the commodities clear-out on Wall Street. Some would say that is a harsh epitaph to a gilded career. Masters, after all, was the youngest female managing director at JPMorgan and made her name as one of the pioneers of the credit default swap market.

JPMorgan commodities sale: Bambi, Godzilla and Blythe

21 March 14
Will Blythe join Bambi and Godzilla at Mercuria to create a new commodities trading dream team? The fate of Blythe Masters, head of commodities at JPMorgan, is in the spotlight now that the sale of the bank’s physical commodities business to Mercuria for $3.5 billion has been confirmed.


Macaskilll on markets: Towards a lower-octane commodities business

1 August
JPMorgan has become a symbol of this hubris, with the tribulations of its commodities head, Blythe Masters, drawing some attention away from the many problems faced by the traditional big-two bank traders of commodities, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. JPMorgan in July backed down from its opposition to a hefty fine for manipulation of the US electricity markets and only narrowly avoided personal censure for Masters and some of her staff for providing misleading testimony to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.


"Some of the businesses we bought were for sale because of their owners’ circumstances, even though the commodities units themselves were healthy" 
- Blythe Masters 
Awards for Excellence 2011: Best Global commodities house

7 July 11
Acquisitions have enabled the firm to fuse derivatives strength with physical commodities trading.



Sideways: Metals trading fuels conspiracy theories
2 June 11

The oil markets generate plenty of accusations about skulduggery, ranging from allegations of bribery surrounding production to speculation about suspicious developments in the timing of physical delivery of supplies. But these have been overshadowed recently by conspiracy theories surrounding trading of both precious and base metals. JPMorgan and its commodities head, Blythe Masters, feature in many of the conspiracy theories.

Macaskill on the markets: Goldman’s move to build a more balanced bank signals a shift for whole industry
3 February 11
JPMorgan’s commodities head, Blythe Masters, might have bought herself some time in the role if her group made a late-year contribution to the strong fourth-quarter fixed-income results at the bank. Masters is coming off a 2010 when she made headlines for all the wrong reasons and her reputation as a one-time protégé of Bill Winters might not help her in the new-look bank. A widely publicized coal-trading stumble, then a series of leaks of internal presentations to her group, put Masters in the spotlight and highlighted the lack of progress in catching up to Goldman and Morgan Stanley during the year.

Macaskill on markets: Commodities chiefs keep their heads down
18 January 10
Blythe Masters started her career in the commodities group at JPMorgan but took a circuitous route to her current role as head of the division. She is best known as one of the founders of the credit derivatives market, which she helped to develop and publicize from the late 1990s. JPMorgan dodged the worst of the effects of the downturn of the structured credit markets in 2007 and 2008, and Masters had moved to run commodities after a spell as CFO for the investment bank, but she still found herself briefly cast as one of the villains of the credit crisis when The Guardian newspaper bizarrely dubbed her a "destroyer of worlds" for her role in developing synthetic securitization. Masters was installed as head of commodities at JPMorgan at the end of 2006. Her appointment ruffled some feathers internally – energy trading head Beau Taylor resigned to join Credit Suisse soon after Masters was slotted in above him. 

FX people moves: More on JPMorgan’s reorganization – Light on Lichten
15 June 07
More information has emerged since the weeklyFiX broke the news of JPMorgan’s reorganization of its FX business last Monday and the departure of Rob Lichten on a sabbatical. The memo said that Blythe Masters will now be focusing fully on JPMorgan’s global commodities business, which it says is one of its top investments and growth priorities.

FX people moves: JPMorgan in shock FX reorganisation – Rob Lichten
11 June 07
One former JPMorgan trader said of the reorganisation: “That’s a step back for sure. I have been told that global FX was the red-headed stepchild of all the trading groups and the knives have been out for ages.” However, another said the reorganisation did make sense and brought in some degree of logic to the alignment of the various components of the FX business. Others say the move raises questions about Blythe Masters’ role. 

GCC head at JPMorgan resigns
13 November 06
JPMorgan spokesman Michael Golden confirmed David Puth is leaving the firm at the end of 2006 to pursue other interests. Blythe Masters, chief financial officer of JPMorgan investment bank, who joined the bank as a trainee commodity trader in 1991 after graduating from Trinity College Cambridge with a degree in economics, will assume responsibility for GCC. The emerging markets area will continue to be run by Daniel Pinto, who will also join the investment bank’s management committee. Both will report to the investment bank’s joint chief executives, Steve Black and Bill Winters.

How JPMorgan survived the loss of a generation
1 May 06
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon wants a clear, new structure for the bank, without personal fiefdoms and superstars. But what does this mean for one of its most important franchises – the structured credit business that JPMorgan once dominated – now in the hands of a new generation of managers? Only one member of the original team, the pioneers behind the very first Bistro deal remains – Blythe Masters now, at the tender age of 35, the CFO of JPMorgan investment bank.

How the structured credit revolution started
1 May 06
Bill Demchak joined JPMorgan in the late 1980s. Demchak, although only in his early thirties, was given responsibility for structured finance and securitization, credit derivatives, and hybrid and exotic derivatives. He built around him a young and very bright team of people set up to do everything that wasn’t flow business. Then in 1997 Demchak took control of credit portfolio/lending at JPMorgan. This was to prove a pivotal moment because once Demchak got control of Morgan’s credit portfolio he charged Blythe Masters and Andrew Feldstein with finding a way to release regulatory capital from the credit portfolio.

Awards for Excellence 2002: The world's best credit derivatives house
1 July 02
Blythe Masters, a managing director in Morgan's New York office, chairs the ISDA Credit Derivatives Market Practices Committee - dubbed the G6 - which has done much to standardize the market through documentation, settlement and end-user guidelines.

Damned if it is an event and damned if it isn’t
1 April 02

"This is not about whether one feels this is fair or not, or whether the contract completely reflects the actual losses incurred by the buyer," says Blythe Masters, managing director at JPMorgan who is also the New York chair of the ISDA credit derivatives market practices committee. 

Credit derivatives: Maturity of hot new market faces its sternest test
1 December 01
Credit derivatives are the hottest area in the global fixed-income market. They promise to transform the entire credit world, by bringing greater liquidity and transparency. But the dramatic worsening in credit, exemplified by Enron's collapse, will severely test the market. Some fear the explosive growth has stored up unseen problems. Regulators fret that risks may have been transferred out of banking and into less sophisticated institutions. The depth of feeling on all sides provided the impetus for the formation early this year of ISDA's credit derivatives markets practices committee, under the chairmanship in the US of JPMorgan's Blythe Masters and in Europe of Lehman Brothers' Paul Varotsis

Revisiting the restructuring issue
1 May 01
Blythe Masters, a managing director at JP Morgan who coordinated the group of US dealers, stresses that though Isda is pleased to have reached agreement the new definition is at best a consensus. "You can't impose standards on a marketplace, the market finds its own equilibrium," 

Derivatives: Swinging around the world
1 December 96
"There are a number of business drivers that are very obvious right now," says Blythe Masters, global head of credit derivatives at JP Morgan. "One is the fact that the prices of financial assets are at exceptionally high levels; combining that with heady stock markets, tight corporate credit spreads, possible interest rate hikes and a potential turn in the default cycle gives people a strong incentive to get involved in credit derivatives." Those observers expecting institutions that have got involved to get their fingers burnt may well be disappointed if Masters' experience of the developing market is anything to go by.