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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Texas permits banks to provide virtual currency custody services

State Issues Texas Banking Virtual Currency State Regulators Fintech Risk Management Digital Assets

State Issues

On June 10, the Texas Department of Banking issued Industry Notice 2021-03, which notifies supervised Texas state-charted banks that they “may provide customers with virtual currency custody services, as long as the bank has adequate protocols in place to effectively manage the risks and comply with applicable law.” The Department noted that Texas state-chartered banks have long provided customers with safekeeping and custody resources through secure storage of assets, which is a critical role in the banking business. “While custody and safekeeping of virtual currencies will necessarily differ from that associated with more traditional assets the [Department] believes that the authority to provide these services with respect to virtual currencies already exists pursuant to Texas Finance Code §32.001,” the notice provided. In addition, the type of virtual currency a bank chooses to utilize will depend on that bank’s expertise, risk appetite, and business model. The notice also pointed out that the Department determined that custody services may be offered by a Texas state-chartered bank in a capacity that is fiduciary or non-fiduciary. A non-fiduciary capacity will allow the bank to act “as a bailee, taking possession of the customer’s asset for safekeeping while legal title to that asset remains with the customer.” Alternatively, in its fiduciary capacity, the bank will have oversight to control virtual currency assets as it would any other type of asset held in such capacity. The notice warned, however, that if a bank is offering virtual currency services, bank management must conduct due diligence and carefully examine the risks involved in offering a new product or service through a methodical risk assessment process.

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