Federal policymakers set sights on FinTech and Marketplace Lending

December 20, 2016 by Tony Hadley


As 2016 comes to a close, many in the financial services industry are trying to assess the impact the Trump administration and Republican controlled Congress will have on regulatory issues. Answers to these questions may be clearer after President-elect Trump is inaugurated on Jan. 20. However, those in the federal regulatory environment are already exploring oversight and regulation of the FinTech and marketplace lending sector.

Warning on alternative credit risk models

Inquiries by federal and state policymakers over the past year have centered on how FinTech and marketplace lenders are assessing credit risk. In particular, regulators have asked about how credit models different from traditional credit scoring models and what, if any, new attributes or data are being incorporated into credit risk models for consumers and small businesses.

On Dec. 2, Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard signaled that policymakers continue to be interested in this area during a wide-ranging speech on the potential opportunities and risks associated with FinTech. In particular, Brainard warned that “While nontraditional data may have the potential to help evaluate consumers who lack credit histories, some data may raise consumer protection concerns” and that nontraditional data “… may not necessarily have a broadly agreed upon or empirically established nexus with creditworthiness and may be correlated with characteristics protected by fair lending laws.”

Brainard also suggested that there are transparency concerns with alternative scoring models, saying that “alternative credit scoring methods present new challenges that could raise questions of fairness and transparency” given that consumers may not always understand what data is used utilized and how it impacts a consumer’s ability to access credit at an affordable price.

Look for regulators and Congress to continue to focus on the fairness and accuracy of new credit risk models and the data underpinning those models in debates surrounding FinTech and Marketplace lending in 2017.

A national charter for FinTech?

Earlier this month, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) announced that it was considering the creation of a national charter for FinTech lenders. There has long been speculation that the OCC would offer a national charter for FinTech. Analysts have suggested that the creation of a charter could help increase regulatory oversight of the growing market and also provide additional regulatory certainty for the emerging FinTech industry.

The OCC’s proposal would create a special purpose national bank charter for FinTech businesses that are engaged in at least one of three core banking activities: receiving deposits; paying checks; or lending money. The OCC will be developing a formal agency policy for evaluating special purpose bank charters for Fintech companies that will designate the specific criteria that companies applying for a charter will have to meet for approval. OCC has suggested that this will likely focus on safety and soundness; financial inclusion; consumer protection; and community reinvestment.

The OCC is collecting comments on the proposed policy through Jan. 15, 2017.