WASHINGTON — The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is examining its legal authority for offering fintech firms a limited-purpose charter, the agency's head said Tuesday.

"The OCC traditionally charters full-service institutions — those that have deposit insurance," Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry said during a Wall Street Journal conference. "But we certainly have a tradition and legal authority to have limited-purpose banks."

"The best examples are limited-purpose trust companies that don't have deposit insurance, and credit card banks."

The agency is currently evaluating its statutory right to extend the same type of modified charter to fintech companies. Curry said it "probably" has the authority to offer a charter to "something that is a not deposit-taking entity."

But the industry should also do its own due diligence, Curry suggested.

"Whether that works for the business model of a fintech firm is something that sector needs to think through," he said.

Many fintech players, including Kabbage, OnDeck and CAN Capital, have already been pushing the OCC to create a charter.

During his remarks, Curry struck an optimistic tone on the rise of fintech companies, saying that banks would come out stronger from the pressure of these firms.

"Competition is good," he said. "Fintech has a lot of potential."

Curry wants the OCC to "encourage" partnerships between banks and fintech companies by setting up a "clearing house for information" aimed at helping both parties understand their regulatory responsibilities.

Over the past few months, the OCC has telegraphed its desire to address the growing role of fintech in the banking sector. The agency published a white paper on "responsible innovation" in March, and will be hosting a forum on fintech issues next week.

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