The top banking regulator in the U.S. has announced that national banks and savings associations in the country can use public blockchains and stablecoins for payment activities. Experts say this is good for bitcoin and its importance should not be understated.
Banks Can Use Public Blockchains and Stablecoins
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) published an interpretive letter on Monday “clarifying national banks’ and federal savings associations’ authority to participate in independent node verification networks (INVN) and use stablecoins to conduct payment activities and other bank-permissible functions.” The OCC supervises nearly 1,200 national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches of foreign banks that conduct approximately 70% of all banking business in the U.S.
“While governments in other countries have built real-time payments systems, the United States has relied on our innovation sector to deliver real-time payments technologies,” explained Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks. “Some of those technologies are built and managed by bank consortia and some are based on independent node verification networks such as blockchains.”
He continued, “The President’s Working Group on Financial Markets recently articulated a strong framework for ushering in an era of stablecoin-based financial infrastructure,” elaborating:
Our letter removes any legal uncertainty about the authority of banks to connect to blockchains as validator nodes and thereby transact stablecoin payments on behalf of customers who are increasingly demanding the speed, efficiency, interoperability, and low cost associated with these products.
The OCC letter concludes that “a national bank or federal savings association may validate, store, and record payments transactions by serving as a node on an INVN.” In addition, “a bank may use INVNs and related stablecoins to carry out other permissible payment activities. In deploying these technologies, a bank must comply with applicable law and safe, sound, and fair banking practices.”
The crypto community widely welcomes this OCC clarification. Dan Held, growth lead at cryptocurrency exchange Kraken, commented: “The OCC will allow US banks to use public blockchains and stablecoins as a settlement infrastructure in the US financial system … This is huge for Bitcoin. As an immutable SoV it already settled over a trillion dollars worth of value annually.”
Emphasizing that “This is a huge win for crypto and stablecoins,” Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire explained:
The new interpretive letter establishes that banks can treat public chains as infrastructure similar to SWIFT, ACH and Fedwire, and stablecoins like USDC as electronic stored value. The significance of this can’t be understated.
“Decentralized, permissionless, open-source and internet-mediated software is literally becoming the foundation for not just the US financial system but for the global economy,” he opined. “It also sets the stage for more regulated financial institutions to run blockchain nodes, and even become validators.”