Q: Can a bank engage with a start-up fintech company with limited financial information?
A: OCC Bulletin 2013-29 states that banks should consider the financial condition of their third parties during the due diligence stage of the life cycle before the banks have selected or entered into contracts or relationships with third parties. In assessing the financial condition of a start-up or less established fintech company, the bank may consider a company’s access to funds, its funding sources, earnings, net cash flow, expected growth, projected borrowing capacity, and other factors that may affect the third party’s overall financial stability. Assessing changes to the financial condition of third parties is an expectation of the ongoing monitoring stage of the life cycle. Because it may be receiving limited financial information, the bank should have appropriate contingency plans in case the start-up fintech company experiences a business interruption, fails, or declares bankruptcy and is unable to perform the agreed-upon activities or services.
Some banks have expressed confusion about whether third-party service providers need to meet a bank’s credit underwriting guidelines. OCC Bulletin 2013-29 states that depending on the significance of the third-party relationship, a bank’s analysis of a third party’s financial condition may be as comprehensive as if the bank were extending credit to the third-party service provider. This statement may have been misunderstood as meaning a bank may not enter into relationships with third parties that do not meet the bank’s lending criteria. There is no such requirement or expectation in OCC Bulletin 2013-29.