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Circle is seeking a federal banking license from regulators

According to people familiar with the matter, Boston based bitcoin startup Circle is seeking a federal banking charter license from federal regulators.

The license would make Circle more accessible nationwide, but would also add more scrutiny to the exchange. In a Wall Street Journal article, they said:

“Officials at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the national-bank regulator, told the Boston startup they would weigh its request, these people said, also signaling a fresh openness toward financial-technology firms on the regulators’ side.”

The prospect of obtaining a federal banking license “is appealing, both because of our long-term strategy but also because it takes a lot of the cost and complexity of working with many third parties out of the equation,” said Circle Chief Executive Jeremy Allaire,who declined to comment on specific government discussions.

“We need to be open to discussing it and working through it,” said Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry, referring generally to bank charters for fintech companies. “And I think that’s the sea change in attitude here at the OCC.”

Circle allows users to buy and sell bitcoin through bank wire transfer or through a credit card purchase, using Visa or Mastercard in US dollars (USD). Founded in 2013 and later launching in 2014, Circle is one of the top funded bitcoin startups, with $76 million in venture funding.

They have grown quite aggressively in the past year and a half. In 2015 they were first to be granted the BitLicense, and they recently expanded to the United Kingdom and partnered with Barclays, making Circle the first digital currency firm to receive an e-money license from the UK Financial Conduct Authority. This enables the company to hold pound sterling, facilitate consumer and business payments, run a currency exchange and move British pounds globally.

Circle is adamant about making good use of the bitcoin blockchain, as they see it as the future of fintech and it will be the underlying asset driving payments around the world.

Tags in this story
banking license, Circle, Fintech, Regulation
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David Shares

David is a writer, researcher, and developer who is passionate about bitcoin and blockchain. He writes for Bitcoin.com, Blockchain.com, and is the founder of Bitcoinx.io (which was acquired by Bitcoin.com). David previously used to write and curate for Myspace and has worked in the fintech and payments space for over 15 years.