The Fed wants to expand oversight of crypto assets at US banks

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In a significant move, the Federal Reserve (Fed) US has announced its intention to expand its oversight of crypto-related activities at banks by introducing an “innovative asset oversight program.” 

This initiative will bring cryptocurrencies and other emerging asset classes under the umbrella of regulation, as well as cover the application of distributed ledger technology (DLT) with the potential to impact the financial system. 

As the world of finance continues to be transformed by the rise of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, regulators are stepping up efforts to ensure that the emerging digital landscape is both innovative and safe.

An innovative approach to regulating the crypto world by the US Fed

The Federal Reserve’s new program aims to improve oversight of activities that fall outside traditional banking regulations. This includes various aspects of the crypto space, such as the custody of crypto-assets, crypto-collateralized lending, facilitation of trading, and the issuance or distribution of dollar stablecoins and tokens. 

The program also extends its focus to DLT and partnerships between banks and non-banks to offer financial services to customers.

The rationale behind this expansion of oversight is to ensure that banks that engage in these “new activities” do so safely and securely

The Federal Reserve recognizes that the rapid evolution of technologies such as cryptocurrencies and DLT has introduced complexities that may not be fully addressed by existing supervisory approaches, potentially posing problems for the financial system as a whole.

The Federal Reserve’s supervision program strikes a balance between encouraging financial innovation and safeguarding the integrity of the banking system. 

By overseeing new activities, the central bank aims to create an environment in which financial institutions can explore new avenues in the cryptocurrency space without compromising stability and security. 

This proactive stance recognizes that technological advances can yield significant benefits, but only if accompanied by responsible regulatory oversight.

The scope of the Fed’s oversight

Although the exact list of firms subject to intensified Federal Reserve supervision remains to be seen, the scope of the program is designed to encompass a broad spectrum of financial entities. 

This includes state banks that engage in activities involving distributed ledger technology, as well as traditional banking institutions that participate in cryptocurrency-related initiatives such as lending, payments or tokenization. 

The program also extends its jurisdiction to all banks supervised by the Federal Reserve, regardless of size, with a focus on those with consolidated assets of $10 billion or less.

This comprehensive approach ensures that both major financial players and regional institutions are subject to supervision, avoiding any regulatory gaps that may arise due to the diverse nature of the changing financial landscape.

Implementation of the new business supervision program will include the integration of specialized experts into existing supervision teams. 

These experts will work alongside existing teams to supervise banks carrying out activities under this program. By merging industry knowledge with established supervisory processes, the Federal Reserve intends to create a cohesive and efficient regulatory framework that adapts to the complexities of the digital age.

Recognizing that not all banks will perform the same level of innovative activities, the Federal Reserve’s program takes a risk-based approach to supervision.

 The intensity and depth of supervision will be tailored to each bank’s engagement in new activities. This approach reflects the realization that a one-size-fits-all strategy does not accommodate the variety of banking entities and their varying levels of involvement in emerging technologies.

Conclusions about the FED’s intentions

The Federal Reserve’s decision to expand supervision of the crypto activities of banks reflects the evolving nature of the financial sector. By introducing a new asset supervision program, the central bank aims to strike a balance between promoting innovation and ensuring financial stability. 

As cryptocurrencies, stablecoins, and distributed ledger technology continue to shape the financial landscape, proactive and adaptive regulation will be essential to harness their potential benefits and mitigate potential risks. 

The success of this program depends on collaboration, expertise, and a commitment to lead the financial sector toward a secure and innovative future.