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US Banks Legally Allowed to Hold & Manage Crypto Assets

The US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which is responsible for the supervision of all national and foreign banks, and also thrift institutions in the country, issued a public letter on July 24 stating that both national banks and federal savings associations are legally allowed to act as crypto custodians for its customers. 

OCC recognises that it is a “modern form of traditional bank activities related to custody services” and that the importance of digital assets are too great to be ignored. As there is growing demand for these assets by US citizens, the OCC believes that banks should offer custodial services for cryptocurrencies, including the storage of cryptographic keys. Banks’ responsibilities in this case also have the potential to move beyond simply storing the keys, although OCC does not specify what these activities entail.

“From safe-deposit boxes to virtual vaults, we must ensure banks can meet the financial services needs of their customers today. This opinion clarifies that banks can continue satisfying their customers’ needs for safeguarding their most valuable assets, which today for tens of millions of Americans includes cryptocurrency,” said Brian P. Brooks, who took over as Acting Comptroller of the Currency in May this year.

What does this mean for the crypto industry? Gemini exchange is of the opinion that the OCC’s statement marks an overall positive development in the space, stating that a “regulated solution provides the best option for the safety and security of clients’ crypto assets”. 

CEO of digital assets custody firm Anchorage Nathan McCauley also echoed these sentiments and added that “major pronouncements” like these can help accelerate institutional investment growth in an industry hindered by lack of clear regulations and guidelines. However, regulatory changes must also go hand in hand with technical expertise as digital assets custody has to be treated carefully.

“It is often bespoke work with no easy corollary in traditional finance,” he concluded.

You may also want to read: Mastercard Expands Crypto Card Program, Bringing Greater Crypto Access to Consumers

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