The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) has given the green light for banks to begin offering cryptocurrency custody services.
The OCC says the move will enable financial institutions to extend their traditional role as intermediaries in the safekeeping of stock certificates and the like to the emerging realm of digital assets.
A bank 'holding' digital currencies on behalf of a customer is actually taking possession of the cryptographic access keys to that unit of cryptocurrency, a role which up until now has been the sole preserve of purpose-built firms with specialist licences such as Coinbase.
"From safe-deposit boxes to virtual vaults, we must ensure banks can meet the financial services needs of their customers today," says Acting Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks. "This opinion clarifies that banks can continue satisfying their customers' needs for safeguarding their most valuable assets, which today for tens of millions of Americans includes cryptocurrency."
The ruling applies to national banks and federal savings associations of all sizes.