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October 25, 2023

Hong Kong Regulators Chart New Course for Virtual Assets

In a response to the shifting tides of the market, the Securities and Futures Commission and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority

In a decisive move to adapt to evolving market dynamics, Hong Kong's financial regulators, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), have issued updated guidelines for intermediaries engaged in virtual asset-related activities. These guidelines reflect a notable shift in strategy and pave the way for broader access to virtual asset products, expanding beyond the realm of "professional investors only."

In a recent circular aimed at guiding market participants, the regulators have underscored the challenges and opportunities posed by digital asset-related products, asset dealing services, asset management guidance, and advisory services. Their intent is clear: to enable a wider array of clients to engage with virtual asset products while instituting appropriate safeguards.

As the SFC and HKMA put it, "The policy is updated in light of the latest market developments and inquiries from the industry seeking to further expand retail access through intermediaries and to allow investors to directly deposit and withdraw virtual assets to/from intermediaries with appropriate safeguards."

This pivotal announcement comes on the heels of market updates and concerns raised by local regulators in the wake of the JPEX incident. The alarm sounded by Hong Kong's Commissioner of Customs and Excise, Louise Ho Pui-shan, served as a catalyst for a more inclusive policy. The move also aligns with the backdrop of institutional investors preparing for the launch of spot ETFs.

While the new guidelines demonstrate a more inclusive approach, certain restrictions persist for intermediaries offering services related to virtual assets:

  1. Professional Investors Exemption: Some virtual asset products, like futures contracts, may be offered exclusively to professional investors.
  2. Client Knowledge Assessment: Intermediaries offering services to retail clients must gauge their clients' knowledge and expertise to ensure they are well-suited for specific virtual asset products. If not, the institution can proceed only after providing adequate training on the nature of cryptocurrencies and associated products.
  3. Solicitation and Due Diligence: Intermediaries must abide by selling restrictions within the jurisdiction and refrain from offering unapproved products. Additionally, it's the responsibility of the company to ensure product suitability, acting in the best interests of their clients, considering factors like financial status and risk tolerance.
  4. Risk Disclosures: Except for institutional clients, risk disclosures must be made, and all parties involved must have a sound understanding of the agreements.

These guidelines serve as a blueprint for an inclusive, dynamic virtual asset ecosystem that navigates the complexities of investor protection and market evolution. In the ever-changing world of digital finance, Hong Kong's regulators are setting a course for responsible growth and adaptability.

Josefina Dipaolo
Josefina Dipaolo
Content Writer at TechNews180
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