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What would a Biden White House mean for fintech?

By Jim Saksa, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Science & Technology News

That discontent with the new OCC rule, which covers 20 percent of banks holding 67 percent of total bank assets, presents an opportunity for Democratic appointees at the three regulators to rejigger it.

"There's no way a Biden White House is going to run afoul of [House Financial Services Chairwoman] Maxine Waters and how she feels the Community Reinvestment Act should be modernized," Thornell said.

Waters has called for giving the law more teeth - only around 2 percent of banks failed to get satisfactory marks on CRA evaluation - and expanding it to meaningfully cover branchless online banks, perhaps by requiring them to invest in areas where they find concentrations of depositors.

Another big, recent change from the OCC - allowing payments firms to get national, rather than state-by-state, charters from the federal banking regulator - may also see a rethink under a Biden presidency, depending on whom he nominates to be comptroller. While banks and state regulators oppose the move, some see it as helping fintechs to inject welcome competition into the consumer banking sector.

"Schools of thought on the OCC's right to issue payments charters are less divided by party than in other areas," said Zuluaga. "You have Democrats who would advocate for this."

Boltanksy predicts the payments charter fight, which is now in court, will continue into a Biden administration without a quick resolution.

Biden's biggest fintech proposal, found in the unity document that Biden's campaign released with his main challenger for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, is probably the one analysts like least: creating free banking accounts for every American at the Federal Reserve and leveraging the Postal Service's 30,825 locations to build a branch network.

 

"We remain bearish on the FedAccount effort even in a Blue Wave scenario given operational limitations and ideological opposition, but the issue will continue to garner attention as it is part of the broader economic equality/access conversation," wrote Boltanksy.

Banks and credit unions oppose that proposal, and it's unclear whether a Biden administration would expend any political capital to pursue it, especially when fiscal stimulus and a major tax overhaul top the policy priority list.

Zuluaga, however, thinks the policy idea could build momentum among Biden's bureaucratic appointees, potentially setting the stage for a future implementation attempt.

"The technocrat-Democrat alliance is strong and would strengthen considerably under a Biden administration," he said.

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