Hong Kong’s SFC Explores Spot Crypto ETFs Amid Pursuit of Global DeFi Hub

In the aftermath of the United States' DeFi market shutdown, crypto traders and market analysts are increasingly considering Hong Kong as the next global crypto hub.

Hong Kong’s Sfc Explores Spot Crypto Etfs Amid Pursuit Of Global Defi Hub_65d5caa581bef.webp

Hong Kong’s SFC Explores Spot Crypto ETFs Amid Pursuit of Global DeFi Hub

Hong Kong’s usually strict Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), known for its stringent oversight of conventional financial markets, is now considering delving into the ever-evolving world of spot crypto ETFs.

According to a recent Bloomberg report, Hong Kong is mulling over the possibility of permitting exchange-traded funds to directly invest in cryptocurrencies. This move is part of their broader strategy to establish itself as a prominent digital asset hub in the Asia-Pacific region, all while grappling with the fallout from the JPEX crisis.

Spot crypto ETFs are gaining considerable traction, with even industry giants like BlackRock showing interest. Moreover, the launch of the first Bitcoin ETF in the United States is on the horizon and expected to become a reality within the next two months.

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Julia Leung, CEO of the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong, expressed that the commission is considering involving retail investors in spot crypto ETFs, pending regulatory approvals. She stated, “We embrace innovative technology that enhances efficiency and customer experience… We are open to experimentation as long as we address any potential risks. Our approach remains consistent, regardless of the asset in question.”

ETFs are seen by the crypto industry as a way to bring digital assets into the mainstream, given their accessibility to a broad range of investors. Bitcoin’s value has surged by 110% this year, partly due to expectations that BlackRock Inc. will soon receive the green light to launch the first spot ETFs for the token in the United States.

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As of the time of writing, the live price of Bitcoin on Binance stands at $35,074.01 per unit (BTC/USD), boasting a market capitalization of $685.13 billion. The 24-hour trading volume is at $10.24 billion, and the coin has seen a 0.96% increase over the past 24 hours.

Related: Bitcoin Could Sustain Above $35K as Fed’s Tone Turns More Dovish

Hong Kong’s Evolving Crypto Regulatory Landscape

In January, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) in Hong Kong introduced stricter regulations, restricting retail investors’ access to crypto spot ETFs. Now, these ETFs are exclusively available to professional investors with portfolios valued at a minimum of 8 million HKD ($1 million).

However, in October, the SFC revised its regulatory manual to expand access to spot crypto and ETF investments to a broader range of investors, provided they meet two conditions: passing a knowledge examination and maintaining a net worth above the professional investor threshold.

These regulatory updates respond to evolving market dynamics and industry inquiries, aiming to increase retail access through intermediaries and enable investors to directly deposit and withdraw virtual assets from intermediaries with appropriate safeguards.

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In June, Hong Kong introduced a specialized regulatory framework for virtual assets, part of an ongoing effort to reaffirm the city’s status as a leading financial center. These regulations seek to encourage businesses while prioritizing investor protection, particularly in the wake of a recent scandal involving HK$1.6 billion ($204 million) at the unauthorized JPEX crypto exchange in the city.

In light of these developments, Julia Leung emphasized the critical importance of a robust and comprehensive regulatory framework. The Securities and Futures Commission has been working to enhance transparency in the licensing process for virtual asset exchanges.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the city’s central bank, is exploring the feasibility of providing guidance to institutions on how to manage digital asset custodial services, recognizing their pivotal role in fostering a digital asset ecosystem.

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Looking ahead, while futures-based crypto exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are permitted in both the United States and Hong Kong, their acceptance has been relatively slow compared to the broader fund sector. Hong Kong currently hosts ETFs with a combined asset value of approximately $65 million, including offerings like Samsung Bitcoin Futures Active, CSOP Bitcoin Futures, and CSOP Ether Futures.

Individual investors can trade popular cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether on licensed crypto exchanges, in line with the SFC’s digital asset regulations. Currently, BC Technology Group Ltd.’s OSL and HashKey Exchange are the primary crypto trading platforms in Hong Kong.

Furthermore, regulatory restrictions regarding stablecoins, digital tokens designed to maintain a stable value, are expected to be implemented between 2023 and 2024.

In the wake of the 2022 digital asset market turbulence and Sam Bankman-Fried’s conviction in the multibillion-dollar FTX fraud, which tarnished crypto’s reputation, the performance of spot ETFs in the market remains uncertain.

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