The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is letting all nationally chartered banks in the U.S. provide custody services for cryptocurrencies.
In a public letter dated 22 July, Senior Deputy Comptroller and Senior Counsel Jonathan Gould wrote that any national bank can hold onto the unique cryptographic keys for a cryptocurrency wallet, clearing the way for national banks to hold digital assets for their clients.
Pointing to the need for digital wallets, adding that because they exist on a blockchain, there is no physical possession for cryptos, the letter notes that banks “may offer more secure storage services compared to existing options”. The letter, which appears to be addressed to an unidentified bank or similar entity, says that both consumers and investment advisors may wish to use regulated custodians to ensure they don’t lose their private keys, and therefore, access to their funds.
“The OCC recognizes that, as the financial markets become increasingly technological, there will likely be increasing need for banks and other service providers to leverage new technology and innovative ways to provide traditional services on behalf of customers,” the letter said.
Banks can provide both fiduciary and non-fiduciary custodian services, the letter said.
It also specified that banks entering the space “should develop and implement those activities consistent with sound risk management practices and align them with the bank’s overall business plans and strategies.”
The OCC is currently headed up by Brian Brooks, a former Coinbase exec who joined the regulator earlier this year. He’s filled in as Acting Comptroller since the beginning of the summer, and has already proposed a number of reforms that would benefit crypto companies, including a national payments charter which would let crypto startups bypass the state-by-state approach in terms of acquiring money transmission licenses if they provide payment services.