OCC Taps Bhardwaj to Lead Fintech Office

The Federal government’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) has selected Prashant Bhardwaj to lead its recently established Office of Financial Technology that will become a key asset in boosting governmental expertise in the fast-changing fintech world.

In his new role as deputy comptroller and chief financial technology officer, Bhardwaj leads a team that analyzes trends in financial technology and evaluates potential risks. He joined the newly established OCC tech office after a 30-year career in the financial services industry.

Bhardwaj began his new role on April 10, 2023.

The OCC – an independent bureau of the Treasury Department responsible for chartering, regulating, and supervising all national banks, foreign banks, and savings associations in the U.S. – established the new technology office last year.

The purpose of the new technology office is to improve the OCC’s expertise on digital assets, fintech partnerships, and other changing technologies and business models within and that affect OCC-supervised banks.

Financial technology continues to change at a rapid pace, and bank-related fintech partnerships are likely to continue to grow and become more complex. As the Federal regulator tasked with ensuring that the Federal banking system remains safe, sound, and fair, OCC must have a deep understanding of financial technology and the financial technology landscape.

The new technology office is expected to bolster the agency’s expertise and ability to adapt to an  ever-developing banking landscape. The office will provide strategic leadership, vision, and perspective for the OCC’s financial technology activities and related supervision.

The establishment of the new technology office comes as the Federal banking regulator steps up its scrutiny of bank-fintech partnerships. It also comes amid calls from conservative lawmakers for the OCC to provide more clarity on how it plans to oversee bank-fintech partnerships going forward.

“Fintech partnerships can lead to cost savings for both [financial technology] and banks, increase competition, and provide faster, better, and cheaper banking products and services for consumers,” five House Republicans, led by Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-NC, wrote to the acting comptroller last October.

Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael J. Hsu, said in a previous statement that the fintech arrangements represent the “de-integration” trend in banking, and are changing the banking industry’s risk profile.

“The establishment of this office will enable us to be more agile and to promote responsible innovation, consistent with our mission,” he said.

The new office will build on and incorporate the Office of Innovation, which the OCC established in 2016 to coordinate efforts to support responsible financial innovation.