The OCC’s Major Move Towards a Cashless Society

This is not a conspiracy theory or a joke. This is real and its official. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) announced that banks can custody cryptocurrencies on behalf of depositors. This means banks can provide digital wallet services to buy, sell and manage cryptocurrencies.

Here is the link to the OCC’s website with the press release:
https://www.occ.gov/news-issuances/news-releases/2020/nr-occ-2020-98.html

For years, cryptocurrencies have been quickly gaining in popularity. The price of major cryptos are already quoted alongside stocks on financial news shows and websites. The OCC has now removed a major roadblock to banks playing in this space. So what does it mean?

There are 2 opportunities that this announcement offers:
The Obvious Opportunity: Seamless Banking, Brokerage and Crypto Services

The first opportunity is the obvious one. Banks will be create and manage digital wallets. Banks will now be able to compete with the major cryptocurrency exchanges. Imagine having your checking account, brokerage account and digital wallet in the same bank. Imagine being able to transfer currency between these accounts. This announcement brings us all a step closer to this reality.

Banks will be able to capture some of the almost $300 Billion cryptocurrency market. These services will create ease in moving from dollars to cryptos and back to dollars again. And with every move, banks can charge a fee.

Having banking, brokerage and crypto services under one roof creates a seamless customer experience. This has been the thing many crypto enthusiasts have waited for. Banking and crypto services combined. Faster settlement from cryptos to dollars. One “bank custody” statement that shows banking, brokerage and crypto transactions and assets together.

This provides a great opportunities for banks to increase their service offering. This will keep more customer wallet share in-house while attracting new customers.

The Not-So-Obvious Opportunity: Digital Dollars and a Cashless Society
The second opportunity brings us back to the shadowy world of conspiracy fact. Central Banks around the world set plans in motion for Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC). Essentially, digital dollars, digital Euros, digital Yen, digital Yuan and more. Banks have the opportunity to test digital wallets with cryptos and then make them available for CBDCs.

The Federal Reserve in the United States discussed potential plans to introduce the digital dollar in the CARES Act. The pandemic stimulus bill was enacted without it. However, hearings continue regarding a second stimulus bill and if digital dollars should be included.

Article: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonbrett/2020/06/08/congress-to-hold-hearing-on-digital-dollar-options-for-stimulus-payments/#175ba79e6c9b

The Bank of Japan announced they will begin trials for CBDCs in 2021. China is currently testing their new digital Yuan.

Article: https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Markets/Currencies/BOJ-to-start-trials-on-digital-yen-next-year-as-China-moves-ahead

The European Central Bank announced they will start experimenting with a digital version of the euro.

Article: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-02/ecb-launches-public-consultation-and-experiment-on-digital-euro

The takeaways are simple, but not easy. We are moving towards a cashless society. Banks will be able to offer the seamless service between banking, brokerage and cryptos we’ve been waiting for. However, as the world’s major central banks move to Central Bank Digital Currencies, they’ll be able to trace all of our holdings and spending. The impetus will be that the virus lingers on cash. For our safety, they’ll say its time to move away from physical cash. However, we’ll give up privacy in the process.

This is a major trend to watch, and prepare for.