OCC Releases Draft “Licensing Manual Supplement” to be Used for Evaluating Fintech Bank Charter Applications; Will Accept Comments Through April 14
On March 15, the OCC released both a Draft Licensing Manual Supplement for Evaluating Charter Applications From Financial Technology Companies (“Draft Fintech Supplement”) and a Summary of Comments and Explanatory Statement (“March 2017 Guidance Summary”) (together, “March 2017 Guidance Documents”) in which it provides additional detail concerning application of its existing licensing standards, regulations, and policies in the context of Fintech companies applying for special purpose national bank charters. The Draft Fintech Supplement is intended to supplement the agency’s existing Licensing Manual. The March 2017 Guidance Summary addresses key issues raised by commenters, offers further explanation as to the OCC’s decision to consider applications from Fintech companies for an Special Purpose National Bank (“SPNB”) charter, and provides guidance to Fintech companies that may one day wish to file a charter application.
The March 2017 Guidance Documents emphasize, among other things, certain “guid[ing]” principles including: (i) “[t]he OCC will not allow the inappropriate commingling of banking and commerce”; (ii) “[t]he OCC will not allow products with predatory features nor will it allow unfair or deceptive acts or practices”; and (iii) “[t]here will be no “light-touch” supervision of companies that have an SPNB charter. Any Fintech companies granted such charters will be held to the same high standards that all federally chartered banks must meet.” Through its commitment to (and alignment with) these principles, the OCC “believes that making SPNB charters available to qualified [FinTech] companies would be in the public interest.”
Notably, the OCC emphasized that its latest Fintech guidance “is consistent with its guiding principles published in March 2016” and “also reflects the agency’s careful consideration of comments received (covered by InfoBytes here) on its December 2016 paper discussing issues associated with chartering Fintech companies.” As covered in a recent InfoBytes Special Alert, the OCC has, over the past several months, taken a series of carefully calculated steps to position itself as a leading regulator of Fintech companies.
Finally, although it does not ordinarily solicit comments on procedural manuals or supplements, the OCC will be accepting comments on the aforementioned Fintech guidance through close of business April 14.