Circle Internet Financial, a digital payments company that has raised $136m in equity funding, is seeking a bank charter from federal banking regulators. A federal banking license would reduce the cost and complexity of working with third-party banking partners.
As it has grown, Circle has been aggressively pursuing licenses to transact in digital currencies, receiving the first such clearance by New York state last year and earlier this year receiving permission to do so in the U.K. But Circle doesn’t have a federal bank charter, instead teaming up with banks, including Barclays PLC, to provide accounts for its mobile app, which allows users to send U.S. dollars, British pounds and bitcoin to one another. Circle’s Mr. Allaire said the company plans to pursue digital financial services beyond payments in the future, such as lending or investing advice. “We think the fintech industry could benefit from different forms of national charters for online banking activities,” he said, noting that Europe and China already have national or cross-border licenses for nondepository electronic money-transfer services.