With the recent appointment of a new Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chief and policy changes easing the regulatory burden has come growing optimism that ownership groups are finally interested again in forming new banks.

The 21 applications filed with the FDIC this year to insure de novo banks, as of September 30, are already more than double last year's total.

Observers say the climate for startup banks is more encouraging after Jelena McWilliams took the helm of the agency in June, and all the regulators began implementing the regulatory relief bill that became law in May. But applicants are likely also eyeing FDIC approvals of new banks as a sign of a welcoming approach.

“Part of that flurry in applicants is probably from seeing more success stories in the last year,” said Aaron Dorn, chairman, president and CEO of Studio Bank in Nashville, which opened in June after receiving approval from the FDIC. “At least four other groups have reached out to me because they are interested in filing to open a bank as well.”

But there are also signs that regulators are not about to just start giving out a rubber stamp. Of the 21 applications this year, only four have been approved. Two have already been "returned" and three were withdrawn. Among those tabling their applications have been a number of fintech firms yet to meet the FDIC's criteria.

Read more in American Banker.