Empowering Investor Protection: Key Highlights from HKSFC’s Cryptocurrency Regulatory Framework Consultation Paper (Dated 5/23)

In a recent development, the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has released a public consultation paper outlining a regulatory framework for the cryptocurrency industry. The proposed framework, set to be implemented from June 1, aims to enhance investor protection and ensure compliance within the digital asset trading space. Let’s delve into the key highlights of this regulatory framework and its potential implications for the industry.

Retail Investor Access to Licensed Exchanges:
Under the proposed framework, retail investors will be allowed to use licensed exchanges, provided that proper investor protection measures, governance standards, and due diligence requirements are in place. This move seeks to foster a more secure and regulated environment for retail participation in cryptocurrency trading.

Confirmation of Investor Knowledge:
Licensed exchanges will be required to ensure that both retail and professional investors have a sufficient understanding of virtual assets and that adequate investor protection measures are implemented. This emphasizes the importance of informed decision-making and safeguarding investor interests.

Disclosure Responsibilities:
The SFC expects licensed exchanges to act diligently and with appropriate skills when it comes to disclosure obligations. Despite the challenges of obtaining and verifying data from issuers, exchanges must take all reasonable steps to obtain relevant information about each virtual asset before making listing decisions.

Verification of Smart Contracts:
While not mandatory, the SFC encourages licensed exchanges to engage independent assessment experts or rely on assessments conducted by third parties (such as issuers) to verify smart contracts. This measure aims to reduce investor risks and ensure the integrity of smart contract functionality.

Eligible Token Listings:
The proposed guidelines suggest that tokens available for retail trading should be less prone to market manipulation. These tokens should be qualified as major virtual assets and included in at least two accepted indices launched by independent index providers. Ensuring high liquidity for listed tokens is also emphasized.

Temporary Suspension of Stablecoin Trading:
The SFC emphasizes that stablecoins unable to maintain their pegging mechanisms or failing to return investors’ funds upon redemption should not be considered stable. The SFC plans to introduce regulatory arrangements for stablecoins between 2023 and 2024. Until then, stablecoins should not be included for retail trading.

Derivatives Trading and Other Services:
The SFC has not made a final decision on allowing derivatives trading or common services such as lending and wealth management. These activities may present potential conflicts of interest and require additional safeguards. The SFC is carefully considering the extensive feedback received on these matters.

The proposed regulatory framework by the Hong Kong SFC represents a significant step towards enhanced investor protection and regulatory clarity in the cryptocurrency industry. By introducing guidelines for retail investor access, disclosure responsibilities, and verification processes, the SFC aims to create a safer and more transparent environment for cryptocurrency trading. It is essential for industry participants to provide feedback during the public consultation process to shape the future of cryptocurrency regulation in Hong Kong.

At Quantech we are up to date with the latest market trend and technology. Contact us if your need a partner to work with for your next project!