By Peter Hobson
LONDON (Reuters) - JPMorgan will join HSBC in storing bullion for the world's biggest gold-backed exchange-traded fund (ETF), the fund's operator said on Thursday, ending its rival's sole guardianship of the $52-billion stash of gold.
The change, which begins on Dec. 6, is a boon for JPMorgan, which could rake in millions of dollars of storage fees.
HSBC had been the sole custodian for SPDR Gold Trust, also known as GLD, since it launched in 2004. The bank currently stores about 910 tonnes of gold for GLD in London -- around a quarter of all the gold held for ETFs globally.
"The addition of JPM will change the current, single-custodian and vault operating model, to accommodate the activity of the fund in anticipation of future growth," the World Gold Council (WGC), which runs the fund, said in a statement.
WGC executive Joe Cavatoni said the council wanted to diversify its storage and adding JPMorgan "gives us another commercial entity with a vested interest in supporting the product."
He said the WGC would seek to funnel gold to JPMorgan, for example by sending it new metal added to the fund, and held out the possibility of an eventual even split between the two banks.
"If we get to the point where there's a very equal balance between the relationships, that would be exciting for us," he said.
Typical fees for large clients like GLD are around 0.03-0.04% of the value of the gold stored, a market source said. That means equal division of the fund's 910 tonnes would see JPMorgan take revenue of around $8-10 million a year from HSBC.
Cavatoni said the WGC's agreement with JPMorgan allowed it to store gold in the United States and Switzerland but for the time the fund intended continue storing all its gold in London.
HSBC said: "We're pleased to continue acting as a custodian for the World Gold Council's SPDR Gold Trust."
JPMorgan declined to comment.
(Reporting by Peter Hobson; Editing by David Goodman and Nick Zieminski)