Acting Comptroller Endorses Fintech Charter Plan
Acting Comptroller Keith Noreika Wednesday endorsed his predecessor’s plan to issue national bank charters to fintech companies.
Speaking at the Exchequer Club in Washington, Noreika also said that despite a lawsuit challenging the OCC’s power to issue such charters.
“On principle, companies that offer banking products and services should be allowed to apply for national bank charters so that they can pursue their businesses on a national scale if they choose, and if they meet the criteria and standards for doing so,” he said, according to a text of his speech.
He added, “I also believe that if you provide banking products and services, acting like a bank, you ought to be regulated and supervised like a bank. It is only fair, but today, that is not happening.”
In March, then-Comptroller Thomas Curry said that the OCC would issue such charters to fintech companies.
That decision is being challenged in federal court by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, which represents state-chartered banks. The group claims that the charter proposal violates federal law.
“We believe that we have the authority to do this in appropriate circumstances,” Noreika said.
He also said that the OCC several years ago clarified its rules regarding special national purpose banks and he believes fintech companies would qualify under those particular rules.
He added, however, that the OCC has not received any applications from fintech companies based on that rule. And he added that the agency has not determined whether it would actually accept or act upon applications from nondepository fintench companies under that rule.
Noreika said that the banking community must continue to adapt to technological changes in the industry.
“We should be careful to avoid defining banking too narrowly or in a stagnant way that prevents the system from evolving or taking proper and responsible advantage of advances in technology and commerce,” he said.
Noreika said that hundreds of fintech companies provide banking services without being subject to the rigorous oversight that banks received.
“People who think that granting national bank charters to fintechs creates a disadvantage for banks have it backwards,” he said. “The status quo disadvantages banks in many ways. While charters would provide great value to the companies that receive them, the supervision that accompanies becoming a national bank would help level the playing field in meaningful ways.”