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US banking watchdog’s new fintech office opens on April 10

The U.S. national banking watchdog is opening a new office to deal with emerging technology in the banking and payments space.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) announced that its new Office of Financial Technology opens on April 10. It will be headed by Prashant Bhardwaj who will assume the role of Deputy Comptroller and Chief Financial Technology Officer.

OCC first announced the new office last October. The office builds on and incorporates the Office of Innovation which the regulator established seven years ago to enforce responsible financial innovation.

The office will give the OCC “a deep understanding of financial technology and the financial technology landscape,” commented Michael Hsu, the Acting Comptroller of the Currency.

“The establishment of this office will enable us to be more agile and to promote responsible innovation, consistent with our mission.”

Prashant will lead a team that will analyse, evaluate, and discuss relevant trends in fintech, their risks and potential implications for OCC supervision. He will have authority over matters relating to emerging technology in banking and payments, including digital assets.

The OCC has become a major player in the digital asset industry in the United States. Under the leadership of former OCC Brian Brooks, Cryptocurrency became a more prominent area for the regulator. Brooks reportedly organized at least 40 meetings to discuss digital assets in his seven months at the helm of the regulator.

Under Brooks, the OCC allowed banks to serve stablecoin issuers, operate nodes on blockchain networks and partner with digital asset custodians.

Michael Hsu, who took over from Brooks, has been tougher on the industry. Earlier this year, he joined the FDIC and the Fed to warn banks about holding digital assets. The OCC also recently denied an application by Protego—a digital asset custody firm—to become a national trust bank, saying it didn’t meet all the requirements.

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