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Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Jack Dorsey's Square, the upstart payment processor for smaller merchants, got the OK to open a bank, after nearly three years of trying.

Why it matters: Square applied to set up an industrial loan company — a "lite" bank that isn't subject to Federal Reserve supervision — which hasn't been approved in more than a decade. It may open the floodgates for companies that want all the perks of being a bank without the same amount of oversight.

Driving the news: Square Financial Services, as the fintech's bank is to be called, will be based in Utah, and — when it opens in 2021 — will collect deposits and lend money to merchants that use Square devices.

  • The approval comes at a crucial time for Square, as many of its customers are the kind of small businesses that have been forced to shutter because of the coronavirus.

The conditions placed on Square — by the FDIC and the Utah Department of Financial Institutions — are way tougher than those of typical banks. But they are still answering to fewer regulators.

  • Its initial capital level will be $56 million, "significantly higher" levels of capital than other banks, per the FDIC.
  • The FDIC will also have the right to examine Square Financial Services' parent company.

Of note: The FDIC signed off on educational company Nelnet's request to launch a bank.

What they're saying: "Nonbanks have always wanted deposit insurance," Thomas Vartanian, a longtime banking lawyer who heads a financial regulatory institute at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, tells Axios.

  • "If you can take deposits at a very low cost, that's an enormously cheap way to fund yourself," he says, as opposed to regular companies that go into the markets and borrow money at more expensive rates.

The bottom line: Applications like Square's caused an uproar in the banking industry more than a decade ago. Remember when Walmart tried to be a bank? Traditional banking institutions howled about the potential consolidation of power in a single company.

  • But Square's approval marks the beginning of a friendlier approach, reopening the doors for other tech companies to open their own banks.

Go deeper

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

46 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Congress sprints to meet crush of deadlines

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congressional leaders have been pushing off vital action for months — and a lot of it will catch up with them in December, which begins Wednesday.

Driving the news: Funding for the federal government is set to expire at midnight on Friday. There are also consequential deadlines related to the debt limit, President Biden's agenda and annual actions like voting on the National Defense Authorization Act.

46 mins ago - World

U.S. fears Iran won’t scale back to 2015 nuclear deal

Officials gather in Vienna on Sept. 29 for the first day of renewed nuclear talks with Iran. Photo: EU Vienna Delegation/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

U.S. officials have extremely low expectations as world powers resume negotiations with Iran to curb its nuclear program, believing the Iranians aren't yet ready to negotiate seriously, Axios is told.

Driving the news: Senior officials in the U.S. intelligence community have assessed the new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, thinks of his predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, as a weak accommodationist who negotiated a bad deal with the U.S. and other world powers in 2015.