ConsenSys acquires JPMorgan’s Quorum blockchain technology

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The blockchain technology company ConsenSys has acquired Quorum, a distributed ledger created by JPMorgan Chase developers.

The $3.2 trillion-asset JPMorgan also made a strategic investment in ConsenSys as part of the deal. ConsenSys did not disclose the price it paid.

JPMorgan is effectively outsourcing future development on Quorum to ConsenSys, while become a customer of the tech firm. The 25 JPMorgan employees who were working on maintaining and advancing Quorum will stay at the bank, where they will work on the transition to ConsenSys before being redeployed to other blockchain efforts.

A protocol engineering team at ConsenSys will handle the management, development, and support of the distributed ledger, which was rebranded as ConsenSys Quorum. JPMorgan will remain an active user and contribute to ConsenSys Quorum.

JPMorgan runs its global payment hub — Interbank Information Network — on Quorum. It's also been testing its own stablecoin, JPM Coin, on the platform; it plans to continue doing so.

JPMorgan unveiled Quorum, a protocol layer for Ethereum distributed ledger open source code, in 2016 under the leadership of Amber Baldet, who was then the banking company’s blockchain program lead and ran its Blockchain Center of Excellence. She left in 2018, shortly after Bloomberg reported that JPMorgan was considering spinning off Quorum, then co-founded Clovyr, a software company.

In the Quorum protocol, the banking company's team of developers created a way to make Ethereum private and permissioned. They developed their own answers to JPMorgan Chase’s requirements for security, privacy and performance.

At first blush, ConsenSys-JPMorgan might look like an odd pairing. ConsenSys has long supported the idea of decentralized finance, using distributed technology to let people and businesses conduct financial transactions directly with each another without the need of a middleman like a bank.

Lex Sokolin, global fintech co-head at ConsenSys, pointed out that it’s tough for a large bank to run open-source projects and expect others, including rivals, to join in.

“It helps more folks come to the table if they can use the technology from a technology firm rather than from a competitor,” Sokolin said. “JPMorgan Chase is focusing on what's valuable to them, which is more the financial application that runs on top of the protocol, rather than maintaining the protocol themselves.”

JPMorgan and ConsenSys, which is based in Brooklyn, N.Y., have collaborated before. They worked together on enterprise Ethereum and co-founded the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance. The companies have worked on distributed ledger projects around trade finance and lending on the Quorum ledger.

“The teams have gotten to know each other over the years by working on these mutual projects,” Sokolin said.

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JPMorgan Chase Blockchain Distributed ledger technology M&A