Hong Kong moving forward with crypto licensing, FinTech chair says

Crypto-friendly Hong Kong is still gung-ho about giving its citizens access to crypto trading despite other jurisdictions “taking a step back,” claims the chair of the FinTech Association of Hong Kong (FTAHK).

Speaking to Cointelegraph at the Hong Kong WOW Summit in March, FTAHK chair Neil Tan said while Singapore and the United States are seemingly stepping back from permitting crypto retail trading, “Hong Kong is stepping forward.”

On June 1, a licensing regime for crypto exchanges will come into effect, and Tan said it’s “going to also include retail.” The licensing guidelines are expected to be released sometime in May.

“If there’s access to [crypto] in a legal and regulated way, then I'm sure participants will come. It is a ‘build it and they will come’ because there are no other options. The options are dwindling, actually.”

In February, the region’s securities regulator proposed allowing retail traders access licensed crypto platforms in its licensing regime proposals for Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASPs).

It noted that denying access could push traders to unregulated overseas platforms. Currently, these platforms can only serve accredited professional investors.

Neil Tan in conversation with Cointelegraph at WOW Summit. Source: WOW

In January, Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) CEO Julia Leung Fung-yee said that retail traders would be limited to “highly liquid” digital assets but did not give any further details.

Along with providing what many consider to be an attractive legal framework for crypto, Hong Kong is also focusing efforts on attracting talent and infrastructure providers — what Tan called “the back end.”

Related: China’s crypto stance unchanged by moves in Hong Kong, says exec

He added both the Chinese and Hong Kong governments recognize the opportunities in the region and are taking action to try to support inbound talent.

“There's a lot of talent across the border and right now there's a fair amount of unemployment,” Tan said on China. “There's a lot of talent that's coming from Big Tech and so forth that's able to come into Hong Kong.”

Infrastructure to support crypto also needs to be in place for Hong Kong to realize its virtual asset hub ambitions, Tan said. “When the platforms come, they come with that infrastructure. They bring the infrastructure with them as well to deliver the product,” he added.

He added the opening of the financial industry to digital assets was “just a natural progression” as cryptocurrencies “become a little bit more prominent.”

“People are actually adopting [crypto] inside of their portfolios. Whether you're talking about the retail side, high net worth or institutional investors, everyone's looking at their portfolios and trying to get that type of exposure.”

“Now we're back in business. We're opening it up.”

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