New bank charter for digital assets lodged in US

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) has proposed a new national bank charter for payment companies handling digital assets, in a significant step forward for regulation of digital currency in the United States.

In a recently published paper, the regulator set out plans for the new charter, which could enable companies to apply for a single license for dealing with digital assets nationally, as opposed to licensing within each individual state.

The move is the latest step forward from the OCC, which has previously indicated support for digital assets and businesses working with them. Back in July, the OCC published an interpretive letter suggesting that national banks could already provide digital currency custody services to customers, after earlier soliciting comments from banks on their use of digital assets ahead of proposed rule changes.

The steps taken by the OCC have been described as having “the potential for [a] significant, positive impact” on digital assets within the formal banking sector in the U.S.

Brian Brooks, Acting Comptroller of the Currency mooted the concept of a payments charter for digital assets in his speech at Consensus back in May, which he said would be a “national version of a state money transmission license,” offering a “national platform with preemption” for banks handling digital asset transactions.

In the interpretive letter recognizing the role of banks in providing digital currency custody, the OCC said “providing cryptocurrency custody services, including holding the unique cryptographic keys associated with cryptocurrency, is a modern form of traditional bank activities.”

The developments come at a time when governments and regulators around the world are working to find more effective structures for regulating digital assets and digital currency payments.

These most recent steps by the OCC have been broadly welcomed by the banking sector, and are seen as indicative of the direction of travel for regulators in the U.S.

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