Gold bugs, meet blockchain - the decade-old computer programming behind bitcoin that backers say is now fueling a revolution in the financial industry.
Tradewind Markets, a startup founded in 2016 by former Wall Street and gold-industry executives, said its blockchain-based trading platform allows investors to buy gold and keep it at the Royal Canadian Mint without ever having to take physical delivery.
Currently, most investors who want the precious metal - often as a hedge against a stock-market crash - typically have to buy gold futures contracts on a commodities exchange or acquire shares in an exchange-traded fund such as State Street's (STT - Get Report) SPDR Gold Shares (GLD - Get Report) . Another option is to buy and take physical delivery of coins like Chinese Pandas or South African Krugerrands, and then typically store them in a safety-deposit box at a local bank branch.
The company, which has already received at least $22.8 million of funding and is backed by heavyweight gold miners like Goldcorp (GG) and Agnico Eagle (AEM - Get Report) , said Tuesday it had hired a new CEO: Michael Albanese, former global head of agency collateral management at JPMorgan Chase (JPM - Get Report) , the largest U.S. bank.
"As Tradewind expands its product offering and client base, Michael's experience with market infrastructure across securities markets, online brokerage and leadership of complex businesses within banking will strengthen the existing management team," the company said in a press release.
Tradewind's board includes Blake Darcy, founder of the online brokerage DLJdirect, later sold to E*Trade Financial, as well as Brad Katsuyama, the electronic stock-trading specialist featured in the Michael Lewis book Flash Boys.
A key advantage of Tradewind's platform will be the ability of investors to quickly examine the provenance of the gold, executives say -- that is, who produced it, and where it came from. That's increasingly important to jewelry makers who want to assure buyers their gold didn't come from mines or supply chains fraught with armed conflicts or labor abuses.
"The question now is how we accelerate the growth," Albanese said in a phone interview.
Blockchain, also known as distributed ledger, is the decentralized programming technology behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum.
None other than JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon in 2017 famously called bitcoin a "fraud" and "worse than tulip bulbs," even as he applauded advances in blockchain.
But he later said he regretted the comments, and in February JPMorgan introduced its own blockchain-based "JPM Coin," allowing the bank's customers to send payments to each other quickly and easily.