JPMorgan hires scientist Charles Lim to help protect the financial system from the threat of quantum domination


dr. Charles Lim, Global Head of Quantum Communications and Cryptography, JP Morgan Chase

Thanks to: JP Morgan Chase

JPMorgan Chase has hired a Singapore-based quantum computing expert to become the bank’s global head of quantum communications and cryptography, according to a memo obtained by CNBC.

Charles Lim, an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore, will focus on exploring next-generation computing technology in secure communications, according to the memo from Marco Pistoia, who leads the bank’s global applied technology research group.

Lim is a “recognized global leader” in quantum-powered communications networks, according to Pistoia.

Hired from IBM in early 2020, Pistoia has built a team at JPMorgan focused on quantum computing and other emerging technologies. Unlike today’s computers, which store information as zeros or ones, quantum computing depends on quantum physics. Rather than being binary, qubits can be a combination of both zero and one at the same time, as well as any value in between.

‘New Horizons’

The futuristic technology, requiring hardware to be stored at super-cold temperatures and years away from commercial use, promises the ability to solve problems far beyond the reach of today’s traditional computers. Technology giants like Alphabet and IBM are rushing to build a reliable quantum computer, and financial firms like JPMorgan and Visa are exploring possible uses for it.

“New horizons are becoming possible, things we never thought were possible before,” Pistoia said in a podcast interview with JPMorgan.

In finance, machine learning algorithms will improve to aid fraud detection in transactions and other areas that involve “priceless complexity,” including portfolio optimization and options pricing, he said.

Drug development, battery materials science and other fields will be transformed by the dramatically advanced computers, he added.

But if and when advanced computing technology becomes a reality, the encryption techniques that underpin the world’s communications and financial networks could be immediately rendered useless. That has led to the study of next-generation quantum-resistant communication networks, Lim’s area of ​​expertise.

Quantum supremacy

New forms of cryptography and secure messaging are needed before quantum supremacy takes place, or the point at which quantum computers are able to perform calculations beyond traditional computers in a reasonable time frame, Pistoia said on the podcast.

That could happen by the end of the decade, he said.

The quantum advantage predates that development and could happen within two or three years, he said. At that time, the new computers are more powerful and accurate than the current versions, but they are competitive.

“Even now that quantum computers aren’t that powerful yet, we don’t have that much time left,” Pistoia said in the podcast. That’s because bad actors already keep private communications to try and decrypt them later when technology allows, he said.

Lim will “pursue both fundamental and applied research into quantum information, with an emphasis on innovative digital solutions that will improve the security, efficiency and robustness of financial and banking services,” Pistoia said in the memo.

Lim is a recipient of the National Research Foundation Fellowship in Singapore and won the 2019 National Young Scientist Award for his work in quantum cryptography, Pistoia said.

Last year, Lim was asked to lead his country’s efforts to create quantum-proof digital solutions, and he has been involved in international efforts to standardize quantum security techniques, Pistoia added.

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