A significant number of United States banks under the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) are increasingly exploring the crypto space seeking to offer different services amid consumer demand.
In this line, data by the FDIC revealed that as of January 2023, about 136 banks were planning or already involved in various crypto-related initiatives, a report by the Office of Inspect General (OIG) published on February 16 indicated.
With a lack of clear regulations, the report noted that the banking sector players are mostly involved with third parties entities to explore the digital currency space.
“According to FDIC data, as of January 2023, the FDIC was aware that 136 insured banks had ongoing or planned crypto asset-related activities. For example, these banks have arrangements with third parties tha allow bank customers to buy and sell crypto assets. Banks also provide account deposit services, custody services, and lending to crypto asset exchanges.” the OIG said.
The need for regulations
The rising involvement of banks in the digital assets industry indicates the growing demand for cryptocurrency-related services and reflects the increasing popularity of assets such as Bitcoin (BTC). However, the OIG called for the FDIC to offer proper guidelines for lenders under its mandate.
In particular, the FDIC was challenged to ensure that their policies and procedures consider the risks associated with digital assets, especially concerning deposit insurance.
“The FDIC should work with other regulators to provide clarity regarding the regulation of digital assets. <…> Further, the FDIC should ensure that its examinations, policies, and procedures address consumer risks regarding digital assets, including the relationship of deposit insurance and digital assets,” the report added.
The OIG highlighted the need for regulations citing the recent collapse of the FTX crypto exchange. Findings indicate that before the bankruptcy filing, FTX was doing business with about 11 banks meaning they might have been involved in vices such as wire transfer fraud.
Furthermore, the report cautioned that the need for protection arises considering that 16% of Americans, or 52 million people, have purchased cryptocurrencies. Of this group, about 46,000 have lost over $1 billion to cryptocurrency scams since 2021.
On the other hand, the FDIC has mainly presented a skeptical stand on cryptocurrencies maintaining that the industry poses risks to the general financial system.
Overall, the bank’s involvement in crypto comes as the U.S. attempts to establish a clear regulatory outlook for managing the sector. Indeed, the Executive Order by President Joe Biden is expected to offer more clarity.