OCC seeks comment on fintech pilot program

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WASHINGTON — The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is soliciting feedback on whether to launch a pilot program for banks to test innovative financial products.

The OCC will accept comments through June 14 to gauge the industry's appetite for a program letting firms test products that “present significant opportunities or benefits” for consumers, businesses and other financial institutions.

“Supporting a financial system that innovates responsibly is central to the mission of the OCC,” Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting said in a press release. “As the prudential regulator of the U.S. federal banking system, the OCC has been a leading voice among regulators on the importance of encouraging innovation that promotes safe and sound bank operations, treats customers fairly, and provides fair access to financial services. This proposed program is an important step as we look to the future of supervision and the evolution of the U.S. banking system.”

The OCC already has an innovation office that engages with banks and fintechs, particularly those seeking a new special-purpose bank charter, tailored for fintech firms, that the agency began offering last summer. Yet no fintech has formally applied for the new charter, partly because of two pending lawsuits by state regulators trying to block the OCC from offering it.

The OCC said the proposed pilot program is separate from the new chartering process, and participants in the new program do not get an “expedited path” to a national bank charter.

The pilot program would allow OCC-regulated institutions that engage with third parties to test products and services individually or in a group, the OCC said.

The proposed pilot program “would build on the OCC’s innovation initiatives to date and complement the agency’s vision to add value through constructive, proactive supervision and to serve as a valuable resource to industry stakeholders,” the agency said in its press release.

The OCC is just one of a handful of agencies that have established offices to encourage innovation by banks and fintech firms. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission have similar programs that allow firms to seek regulatory input on innovative products and services. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. recently started an innovation office to begin engaging with banks and fintech partners on their offerings.

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