In prepared remarks delivered on April 28 at a fintech conference hosted by Northwestern University, Thomas J. Curry—who on May 5, will be stepping down from his role as Comptroller after completing his five-year term—took the opportunity to “share [his] perspective on where financial innovation is today,” as well as what he believes the OCC “is doing to encourage responsible innovation within the banking system.” In so doing, the departing Comptroller also addressed some of the criticism received by the OCC over its recent efforts to move forward with developing a special purpose national bank charter for fintech companies. (See related InfoBytes coverage here.) Among other things, Curry noted that, for him, “one of the most exciting parts of this [fintech] wave of innovation is the potential for technology to expand access to the unbanked and underserved, in the same way that the Internet helped democratize information.” On this point, he explained further that “[d]ata from the FDIC and others show that minorities and other traditionally underserved populations may embrace fintech at even higher rates than the general population.” The outgoing Comptroller also highlighted several ways the OCC’s Office of Innovation is already working to enhance the delivery of financial products and make banking more efficient, including, for instance, its recently-unveiled “Office Hours” initiative, which was created to provide a new means by which stakeholders can seek regulatory guidance. Curry did, however, caution the audience about the importance of proceeding “cautiously,” so as to avoid “compromis[ing] the integrity of the banking system” and/or “allow[ing] untested products to result in unintended consumer harm.”

According to an OCC press release, Curry will be replaced by Keith Noreika, who is slated to become Acting Comptroller of the Currency on May 5, until President Trump appoints, and the Senate confirms, a new comptroller. Noreika began his career in private practice and has advised banks on Volcker Rule, Bank Secrecy Act, and consumer protection regulation compliance and has worked extensively with all of the federal bank regulatory agencies.