On October 19, OCC Acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith A. Noreika spoke at Georgetown University’s Institute of International Economic Law’s Fintech Week to discuss innovation within the financial technology sector and its impact on the evolution of the financial services marketplace. “[W]hat has allowed the business of banking to evolve so successfully is that we have remained open to change and created a framework of laws and regulation over time that allows banking activities to evolve,” Noreika remarked. “[W]e have to be careful to avoid defining banking too narrowly or in a stagnant way that prevents the system from taking advantage of responsible advances in technology and commerce.”

Noreika spoke about the OCC’s Office of Innovation (Office), which was created earlier this year to facilitate discussions related to fintech and financial innovation. A pilot framework is currently being developed by the Office to create a “controlled environment” for banks to develop and test products to provide insight into a “proposed product’s controls and risks” and how it might possibly impact OCC policies in the future.

Noreika also discussed the OCC’s position on issuing special purpose national bank charters to non-depository fintech companies seeking to expand into the banking sector—a concept currently being contested by both the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) and the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), and one which the OCC has not yet made a decision (See previous InfoBytes coverage of CSBS’ and NYDFS’ challenges here and here.) Addressing claims that fintech charters would inappropriately mix banking and commerce, Noreika refuted the argument and stated that his suggestion was to “talk to any company interested in becoming a bank and that commercial companies should not be prohibited from applying—if they meet the criteria for doing so.” Further, a “chartered entity, regulated by the OCC, would be a bank, engaged in at least one of the core activities of banking” as defined by the Bank Holding Company Act.