OCC: Banks May Offer Crypto Asset Custody Services

In an interpretive letter today, the OCC said that national banks and federal savings associations may provide cryptocurrency custody services for their customers. The OCC noted that it considers such services to be a modern form of traditional bank activities.

“As the banking industry entered the digital age, the OCC recognized the permissibility of electronic safekeeping activities,” the letter said. “Specifically, the OCC has concluded that a national bank may escrow encryption keys used in connection with digital certificates, finding that the key escrow service is a functional equivalent to physical safekeeping, except it uses electronic technology suitable to the digital nature of the item to be kept safe.”

In addition, banks may also provide secure web-based document storage, retrieval and collaboration of documents and files containing personal information or other confidential information “because these services are the electronic expression of traditional safekeeping services provided by banks.” The OCC added that banks engaging in these activities should develop them consistently with sound risk management practices and align them with the bank’s overall business plan.