The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) of Hong Kong concluded a consultation period today, revealing the finalized regulatory requirements for operators of virtual asset trading platforms licensed by the SFC.
Over the consultation period, the SFC collected 152 written submissions from stakeholders including industry and professional associations, professional and consultancy firms, market participants, licensed corporations, and individuals. These respondents largely welcomed the proposed measures, although several requested clarifications. Following an assessment of the feedback, the SFC made modifications and clarifications to some of the proposed requirements.
In a notable decision, the SFC has approved the proposal to allow licensed platform operators to cater to retail investors, with the majority of respondents showing agreement. To safeguard these investors, the SFC will introduce robust measures such as suitability assessments during onboarding, rigorous token due diligence, admission criteria, improved governance, and mandatory disclosures.
“Hong Kong’s comprehensive virtual assets regulatory framework adheres to the principle of ‘same business, same risks, same rules’, with a key focus on robust investor protection and risk management,” said Ms. Julia Leung, the SFC’s Chief Executive Officer. “This will foster sustainable industry development and support innovation.”
The newly released Guidelines for Virtual Asset Trading Platform Operators will come into effect from 1 June 2023, setting out key expectations such as the secure custody of assets, segregation of client assets, avoiding conflicts of interest, and complying with cybersecurity standards and requirements.
The SFC will provide further guidance on new regulatory requirements, license application procedures, and transitional arrangements. The application forms for trading platforms will be available on 25 May 2023 and the SFC will begin accepting applications on 1 June 2023.
In response to the regulations, operators are encouraged to apply for a license if they can comply with the SFC’s standards. Those unable or unwilling to comply should arrange for an orderly closure of their operations in Hong Kong.
To protect investors, the SFC will continue working with the Investor and Financial Education Council to educate the public about the risks of trading on unregulated platforms. At the time of this announcement, the SFC has not approved any virtual asset trading platform to provide services to retail investors. Most platforms currently accessible to the public are not regulated by the SFC.
The market’s response to the new regulations has been mixed, with the Hong Kong concept token CFX(Conflux) experiencing a pullback.
Currently, Hong Kong’s SFC has licensed only two virtual asset trading platforms: OSL Exchange and HashKey Pro. With the new regulatory framework set to take effect in June, this marks a significant milestone in Hong Kong’s efforts to regulate the fast-growing virtual asset sector.