In an announcement on BitcoinTalk earlier today Bitcoin-Central revealed that they have partnered with Aqoba and Credit Mutuel to begin operations as Payments Service Provider (or a PSP). While not quite exactly the same as a bank a PSP falls under all the regulatory restrictions and requirements as a bank except they are not able to issue credit.
They will fall under the European Union regulatory body but they are open to international clients so no matter where you live you can now open the equivalent of a European bank account (assuming your government allows it).
If you look at the story on BitcoinTalk you will find quite a few advantages to this move but a short list of advantages to this are;-
- Non bitcoin Deposits stored in individual Credit Mutuel accounts.
- An IBAN Number will be issued within the next few months.
- Non bitcoin deposits 100% guaranteed by the French Government.
- You will soon be able to get a Debit Card issued.
- You will be able to use your BTC with your Bitcoin-Central Debit Card.
As with any new service there are downsides, the one that I can see most bitcoin users borking at is to take full advantage of the service you must positively identify yourself with a scan of a government-issued photographic identification document (Passport, National ID Card, Driver's License etc..). While this is not an issue for most bitcoiners quite a few value their anonymity and it also opens a new avenue for Identity Theft.
It seems to me that Bitcoin-Central has just gained a step ahead of the other bitcoin exchanges.