The Independent Community Bankers of America have expressed concern about Square’s plans for a bank charter; they believe it would set a precedent for other tech companies like Amazon; According to Jacqueline Reses, Amazon and Facebook haven’t expressed interest in a banking license and they would have to be evaluated on their own merits; Square also recently met with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition to address concerns with the Community Reinvestment Act. Source
Mobile-focused digital banking provider Varo Money has applied for a banking charter with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), as chartering options continue to be debated for US fintech companies. Varo Money is the second fintech company to apply for bank chartering following SoFi who currently has an application pending with the FDIC.
Varo Money has applied for two approvals, one a national banking charter with the OCC and the second an application for deposit insurance with the FDIC. According to the Wall Street Journal, approvals would allow the company to take deposits, pay interest, make loans in any state and issue cards, all independently.
Details of the firm's applications have not been released publicly and it's likely to be a slow process for approval with the OCC who is currently being sued over offering a national banking charter for fintechs. The FDIC process also includes an open comment period which has been challenging for SoFi. Varo Money does have a significant investment from Warburg Pincus which also includes support from former US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who is the firm's president.
In a statement defending allegations against its issuance of new bank charters, the FDIC reaffirmed its authority to review and approve applications for US businesses seeking deposit insurance from the FDIC; the criticism comes from the OCC as it continues to develop plans for its national fintech charter; in a podcast interview Friday with a Commodity Futures Trading Commission official, Keith Noreika criticized the FDIC's process for chartering banks, suggesting that the open process was too long and cost too much for requesting companies eventually leading to many withdrawn applications; Noreika also said the OCC has proposed a bill that would take away the FDIC's role in approving newly chartered entities for deposit insurance. Source
Arthur Levitt, former Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, says the recent scandal at SoFi has cost them approval of their special bank charter; he tells the FT, “So for a company as aggressive as SoFi, I think the chances of that happening were slim. Now they become almost impossible.” Source