Several fintech companies—including one virtual currency firm—have made inquiries to the OCC about applying for national bank charters, American Banker reported this week, citing comments by OCC Chief Counsel Amy Friend at a recent fintech forum at George Washington University. Friend said firms could “be seeking the ‘regulatory umbrella’ of federal preemption of state rules,” since many are challenged by the number of state licenses needed to operate as nonbank lenders or money transmitters.
Across the financial industry, regulators are facing increased calls to address the challenges and opportunities the fintech sector presents, though they “are still scratching the surface when it comes to understanding how to handle them,” American Banker said.
Ray Grace, banking commissioner for North Carolina, commented recently that regulators need to help the banking industry become a “laboratory for change” by approving new types of “innovative” banks. While he noted that de novo activity has been slow since the financial crisis, “I’m beginning to sense we’re coming to a pivot point,” he added.
In an op-ed earlier this year, ABA President and CEO Rob Nichols emphasized the need for consistent regulatory treatment of activities like payments, loans, deposits and other financial products, whether offered by banks or fintech providers. Nichols stressed that doing so would lead to greater consumer protection and encourage more robust collaboration between banks and fintech companies.