- From 1 June, every crypto trading platform in Hong Kong needs to be regulated by the SFC.
- The SFC wants to know if regulation should allow retailers to trade as well.
Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) announced the launch of public consultation on Monday regarding regulating trading platforms for cryptocurrencies and digital assets. Interested parties can submit their comments until 31 March 2023.
Hong Kong Opens Crypto Regulation Consultation Period
Starting from 1 June 2023, any centralized virtual asset trading platform that conducts business in Hong Kong or targets Hong Kong investors must obtain a license from the SFC under a new licensing system. The SFC's proposed regulatory standards for virtual asset trading platforms are modeled after the current Securities and Futures Ordinance regulations and are similar to those for licensed securities brokers and automated trading venues. Additionally, the SFC has suggested revisions to some of the existing requirements as part of this initiative.
The first information suggesting that Hong Kong wants to legalize crypto trading and broaden its status as a prominent financial hub to a digital assets center emerged in October 2022. Although cryptocurrency trading is banned in China, Hong Kong is taking advantage of its independent status to allow brokers and platforms to apply for local licenses.
During the consultation period, SFC specifically requests input on whether licensed platform operators should serve retail traders and what additional measures should be met to protect individual investors.
"As has been our philosophy since 2018, our proposed requirements for virtual asset trading platforms include robust measures to protect investors, following the 'same business, same risks, same rules' principle," Julia Leung, the Chief Executive Officer at SFC, said.
Operators of cryptocurrency exchanges and platforms wishing to obtain authorization should start reviewing their control systems to prepare for a smooth transition. In contrast, according to the SFC, those who do not plan to obtain a license should begin shutting down their Hong Kong operations in an orderly manner.
"In light of the recent turmoil and the collapse of some leading crypto trading platforms around the world, there is clear consensus among regulators globally for regulation in the virtual asset space to ensure investors are adequately protected and key risks are effectively managed," Leung added.
Just a week before the recent SFC announcement, one of the leading US electronic trading platforms, Interactive Brokers, decided to expand its crypto offering to the Asian markets and launched new digital assets trading services in Hong Kong.
Although the offering is currently limited to only two assets: Bitcoin and Ethereum, Interactive Brokers did not rule out the possibility of broadening the number of offered tokens in the foreseeable future.
For now, only professional traders will be able to trade cryptos with Interactive Brokers in Hong Kong, but the potential change of local regulations, which are the topic of the newest public consultation, may open up the platform to a large number of retail customers.
"Investor demand for digital assets continues to grow in Hong Kong and around the world, and we are pleased to introduce cryptocurrency to address the trading objectives of clients in this important market," said Interactive Brokers' Head of APAC, David Friedland.
After Crypto ETFs, It Is a Time for Crypto Tokens
Back in October 2022, one of the Four Asian Tigers was conducting similar consultation focused on allowing retail traders access to crypto exchange-traded funds (ETFs). These types of instruments are still waiting for regulatory approval in the US, but are already available in Europe.
Only two months after the publication of the consultation paper, CSOP Asset Management, an investment advisor based in Hong Kong, launched the first crypto ETFs on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX). CSOP Bitcoin Futures ETF and CSOP Ether Futures ETF track the standardized, cash-settled Bitcoin futures contracts and Ether futures contracts traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, respectively.
"They provide investors with exposure to the digital asset space for the first time in Asia and reflect both our ongoing commitment to, and the market's appetite for, the digital economy. We look forward to welcoming more themed ETFs and more digital asset products to our markets in the months ahead," Wilfred Yiu, the Chief Operating Officer and Co-Head of Markets at HKEX, commented.