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Hong Kong Regulators Set to Reveal Crypto Exchange License Guidelines in May

Ruholamin Haqshanas
Last updated: | 2 min read
Source: Adobe/leungchopan

Hong Kong’s Securities Futures Commission (SFC) will release guidelines on the licensing regime for cryptocurrency exchanges by next month. 

SFC CEO Julia Leung announced the plan during an event, noting that the city will unveil its new cryptocurrency framework in May, according to a Thursday report by Bloomberg. 

Back in February, the SFC published a consultation paper on its proposed regulatory regime for crypto trading platforms. As per the Bloomberg report, the consultation paper has garnered more than 150 responses.

Furthermore, in a new licensing regime for crypto platforms set to come into effect starting in June, the SFC will allow retail investors to trade certain digital currencies, the agency said earlier this year.

The regulator detailed that retail investors would be allowed to trade certain “large-cap tokens” on licensed exchanges, given that safeguards such as knowledge tests, risk profiles, and reasonable limits on exposure are put in place.

The agency did not specify which large-cap tokens would be allowed. However, a report by the FT claimed Bitcoin and Ethereum, the two largest cryptocurrencies by market cap, would be opened up to retail customers.

The SFC first introduced its crypto regulatory framework back in 2018, which banned retail investors from trading crypto. 

However, the SFC has recently said that the “virtual asset landscape has changed significantly” since it first announced the regulatory regime.

Licensed Trading Platforms Start Offering Crypto Service in HK

It is worth noting that some licensed trading platforms have already begun offering crypto-related services to investors in Hong Kong under the SFC’s supervision.

OSL and Hashkey Group are two such platforms, which have become the first crypto exchanges in the city to receive licenses from the SFC. 

The duo also enjoys crypto-to-fiat conversion services from ZA Bank, the largest online-only bank in Hong Kong. The bank allows users of the trading platforms to withdraw crypto deposits in US dollars, Hong Kong dollars, and Chinese yuan. 

“For the dozen of interested firms, big or small, from abroad and local, top of their concern is to have a path to make things work,” ZA Bank CEO Ronald Iu said earlier this month. 

The CEO added that ZA Bank would also provide the same service for more crypto platforms in the city as they obtain their licenses.

Hong Kong’s new crypto regime comes as the city has been aggressively pursuing its Web3 and blockchain push to position itself as a hub for digital innovation in Asia. 

The city has also seen significant interest from crypto firms in the wake of a regulatory crackdown on crypto in the US.

Hong Kong’s Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Christian Hui, said last month that more than 80 companies working in the digital asset space had shown interest in establishing a presence in the city since October 2022.

More recently, Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary, Paul Chan, reiterated the city’s crypto hub ambitions, claiming that it is the “right time” for the city to push for Web3 despite the recent market volatility.