Federal Reserve creates ‘Novel Activities Supervision Program’ to oversee new financial technologies

The Federal Reserve Board announced on Aug. 8 the creation of the Novel Activities Supervision Program, a key initiative designed to oversee complex and rapidly advancing technologies within the banking sector, including those related to crypto-assets and blockchain technology.

In a significant move aimed at aligning financial innovation with regulatory oversight, the program will foster the benefits of technology-driven financial advancements while appropriately addressing risks to maintain the safety and soundness of the U.S. banking system. This decision reflects the Federal Reserve’s efforts to adapt to an evolving financial landscape, where non-banks and emerging technologies play an increasingly important role.

Balancing risk

The Novel Activities Supervision Program, detailed in SR 23-7, will focus on complex partnerships with non-banks to provide banking services, crypto-asset-related activities, distributed ledger technology, and concentrated provision of banking services to crypto-asset-related entities and fintechs. The program will work within existing supervisory processes, enhancing and strengthening oversight without imposing undue burden.

In conjunction with the Novel Activities Supervision Program, the Board has also provided guidance on the process for state banks supervised by the Federal Reserve to engage in specific dollar token or stablecoin activities. State member banks looking to issue, hold, or transact in dollar tokens must demonstrate sufficient controls to conduct the activity safely.

Today’s guidelines focus on various risk factors, including operational and cybersecurity risks, liquidity concerns, compliance with anti-money laundering rules, and adherence to consumer protection statutes. This follows the Board’s January policy statement, promoting a level playing field for banks with federal supervision and building on their ongoing efforts to create clarity for all parties as financial services evolve.

The announcement emphasized the Fed’s commitment to facilitating innovation while maintaining a robust regulatory framework. The supervision program aims to monitor activities that may not be adequately addressed by existing supervisory approaches and raise concerns for the broader financial system.

To ensure the program remains current and practical, it will engage with external experts from academia, banking, finance, and technology, incorporating insights from real-time data, market monitoring, and regular information exchange.

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