OCC’s Curry: Fintech Discussion Touches on ‘Fundamental Nature’ of Banking

The debate over how the financial industry should address the opportunities and challenges of fintech has sparked a discussion about “the fundamental nature of the business of banking,” said Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry in remarks today. Curry acknowledged that the OCC’s proposal to grant limited-purpose national bank charters to fintech companies has been a particular focal point of this discussion.

Responding to criticism the agency has received over the proposal, Curry cautioned that “the business of banking is dynamic,” and that it should not be defined “as a static state. Such a view risks choking off growth and innovation. The federal banking system has served as a common source of strength for communities across the country and for the broader national economy for more than 150 years because it was allowed to adapt to meet the evolving needs of consumers, business, and communities.”

He noted that technological innovation is reshaping the relationship between consumers and financial service providers in a number of ways, and that both banks and fintech companies play a role. He highlighted as an example banks’ recent launch of cardless ATM machines that allow consumers to make cash withdrawals by using their smartphone. Innovation is also playing a role in improving service and increasing financial inclusion, he added, “but it is important to remember that apps are no substitute for a bricks-and-mortar presence in a low- to moderate-income community.”

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