NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- As purchases with dollar bills give way more and more to digital transactions, are the country's banks at risk of experiencing the same fate as the vinyl-record stores of the 1970s and video-rental chains of the 1990s?
That was the question U.S. Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry posed Wednesday -- and answered firmly in the negative. The head of an office that oversees more than 1,600 banks with $10.9 trillion in assets, Currry argued that established U.S. banks will keep their competitive edge against online platforms such as PayPal and digital currencies like Bitcoin. Brick-and-mortar shops like Bank of America (BAC), JP Morgan Chase (JPM) and Wells Fargo (WFC) can rest easy, he said.
"There is no question that depository institutions occupy a very important place in today's larger payments universe," he said. "But that begs the question of how important will banks be in tomorrow's payment systems. We hear it all the time that banks are unable to compete with aggressive newcomers for market share. But we've heard that before."
Although traditional banking may seem outmoded, people forget how agile the seemingly entrenched giants have been in adapting to technological breakthroughs, Curry said.
"The tendency to underestimate the dynamism of the banking system should be resisted, because banks have been the source of so many of the innovative products and technologies of recent years," he said. "Consider, for example, the way banks embraced, and in some cases developed, automated teller machines, Internet banking, mobile applications and more."