Federally Chartered Banks and Thrifts May Provide Custody Services for Crypto Assets

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency published a letter clarifying national banks’ and federal savings associations’ authority to provide cryptocurrency custody services for customers. The OCC in a release said it recognized the importance of digital assets and the authority for banks to provide safekeeping for such assets since 1998. The OCC wrote that providing cryptocurrency custody services, including holding unique cryptographic keys associated with cryptocurrency, is a modern form of traditional bank activities related to custody services.  According to Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian P. Brooks: “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.” The OCC said that as the financial markets are increasingly digitized, the need will increase for banks and other service providers to leverage new technology and innovative ways to serve their customers’ needs. A number of states have already authorized state banks or trust companies to provide similar functions, the OCC wrote.