The director of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), Thomas Curry, called for a balanced approach to regulating new financial technologies such as bitcoin. “It’s our job as a regulator to support and even encourage innovation that helps bank customers,” Director Curry stated. He goes on…“In fact, that’s a hallmark of the national bank charter – its ability to adapt to the changing needs of bank customers.” Curry called for initiatives which might ease the regulatory burden on both financial institutions and outside startups exploring new banking technologies. He indicated that dedicated OCC personnel would develop a framework to evaluate such new innovations in finance. Director Curry also referenced the risk management capabilities inherent in bitcoin as well as its overall efficiency, though not surprisingly, he expressed concern for its “anonymity”.
Director Curry’s words should be of some comfort to the bitcoin community. First, his use of pointed language when referring to the easing of regulatory pressures on startups leaves open the possibility that the OCC may consider a probationary period or relaxed regulations for early stage projects. Second, his announcement of a team dedicated to new technologies along with passive references to the blockchain as a risk mitigate, suggest a willingness to at least consider adopting regulations based on the underlying technology rather than traditional legacy bank enforcement mechanisms.
The regulatory influence wielded by Director Curry cannot be overstated. The OCC regulates and supervises approximately 2,000 national banks and federal savings associations, as well as 50 federal branches of foreign banks in the U.S. This accounts for roughly three-quarters of the total assets of all U.S. commercial banks.
Keep an eye out for future commentary and transcripts from Director Curry…