The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) established its Office of Financial Technology on Thursday to supervise the fintech industry as it grows at a “rapid pace,” the agency said.

The new office, announced in October, is a further expansion upon the OCC’s Office of Innovation and will heighten the agency’s focus on its “agility in providing high-quality supervision of bank-fintech partnerships,” according to a press release.

Additionally, the office will enhance the OCC’s expertise on matters regarding digital assets, fintech partnerships, and “other changing technologies and business models within and that affect OCC-supervised banks,” the agency said.

The OCC appointed Prashant Bhardwaj to lead the office, effective April 10, as deputy comptroller and chief financial technology officer. He brings nearly 30 years of financial sector experience and will lead the team responsible for evaluating trends in fintechs and potential risks.

Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu said in remarks delivered at an industry event Thursday that since being appointed acting comptroller in May 2021, the agency has “emphasized that persistent inequality can erode trust in banking.”

“[P]eople who feel stuck or lack access to responsible, affordable financial products and services may conclude that the banking system is working against them rather than for them,” he said. “This can compel consumers to turn to nonbanks, such as payday lenders, crypto platforms, and fintechs, which often have less stringent safety and soundness requirements and consumer protection oversight than banks.”

The OCC is an independent bureau of the Treasury Department.