On March 6, Thomas Curry, Comptroller of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) spoke at the LendIt USA 2017 conference and addressed arguments against the regulator’s authority to provide charters to FinTech firms as presented in its December 2016 white paper, Exploring Special Purpose National Bank Charters for Fintech Companies (see InfoBytes Special Alert). Curry stated, “[T]he National Bank Act  give[s] the OCC the legal authority to grant national bank charters to companies engaged in the business of banking,” and added that “[i]t is not circumscribed just because a company delivers banking services in new ways with innovative technology.” Curry says the OCC plans to publish a supplemental document to clarify ways it will evaluate FinTech companies that apply for charters.
Regarding the risks posed by institutions creating their own virtual currencies, Federal Reserve’s lead governor, Jerome Powell, said in remarks made to Yale University on March 3 that the risks and technological challenges are far too high for central banks to undertake. “Any central bank actively considering issuing its own digital currency would need to carefully consider the full range of the payments system and other policy issues, which do seem substantial, as well as the potential societal benefits,” said Powell. “I would expect private-sector systems to be more forward-leaning than central banks in providing new features to the public through faster payments systems as they compete to attract retail customers,” Powell said. “A central bank-issued digital currency would compete with these and other innovative private-sector products and may stifle innovation over the long run.”