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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Fed governor discusses modernizing payment systems for community banks

Federal Issues Federal Reserve Community Banks Third-Party Vendor Management Fintech ACH OCC

Federal Issues

On February 27, Federal Reserve (Fed) Governor Michelle W. Bowman spoke before the Banking Outlook Conference held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta on ways the Fed can increase transparency and modernize payment services for community banks. Bowman stated that the Fed is “uniquely positioned as a provider of payment services and as a supervisor of banks to ensure that our nation’s evolving financial system works for community banks.” Bowman discussed how the Fed can achieve this objective by, among other things, (i) adopting an additional same-day automated clearinghouse (ACH) window, which “will allow banks and their customers, particularly those located outside the eastern time zone, to use same-day ACH services during a greater portion of the business day”; (ii) implementing FedNow, which would, as previously covered by InfoBytes, “facilitate end-to-end faster payment services, increase competition, and ensure equitable and ubiquitous access to banks of all sizes nationwide”; and (iii) encouraging partnerships between community banks and fintech firms to “leverage the latest technology to provide customer-first, community-focused financial services and provide customers with efficiencies, such as easy-to-use online applications or rapid loan decisionmaking.” Bowman highlighted the Fed’s fintech innovation office hours, as well as the Fed’s recently launched fintech innovation webpage (covered by InfoBytes here), and emphasized the Fed’s desire to hear directly from banks and fintech companies on innovation challenges.

With respect to third-party service providers, Bowman proposed several important initiatives for the Fed to help community banks effectively manage their third-party relationships and access innovative new technology. These include providing clear, consistent due diligence guidance on third-party relationships to provide uniform standards that are aligned with guidance issued by the OCC and other banking agencies. Bowman also suggested increasing the transparency of its third-party supervisory program by releasing information that may be useful about key service providers to community banks, and tailoring regulatory burdens for community banks with assets under $1 billion.

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