Hong Kong regulator issues tokenized investments requirements amid demand

The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) of Hong Kong laid down the business requirements for offering tokenized securities and other investment products in a circular released Nov. 2.

The market demand in Hong Kong for tokenized investment products combined with the various benefits of blockchain technology became one of the key drivers for the SFC to consider issuing public guidelines on tokenizing the securities and futures markets.

The circular broadly details 12 points, emphasizing four aspects — tokenization arrangement, disclosure, intermediaries and staff competence — for eligibility in issuing tokenized securities-related activities.

The intent behind the tokenization of SFC-authorized investment products is tied to rising market demand and the government’s willingness to facilitate market development. Considering that the underlying product can meet all the applicable product authorization requirements and the additional safeguards to address the associated risks, the SFC stated:

“By adopting a see-through approach, the SFC is of the view that it is appropriate to allow primary dealing of tokenized SFC-authorised investment products.”

Providers are expected to take full responsibility for their tokenized products, ensure effective record-keeping, and demonstrate operational soundness, among other factors. The SFC further clarified:

“Product Providers should not use public-permissionless blockchain networks without additional and proper controls.”

Regarding disclosure requirements, providers need to clearly disclose whether settlements happen off-chain or on-chain and prove the ownership of tokens at all times. Lastly, the SFC will also require providers to “have at least one competent staff with relevant experience and expertise to operate and/or supervise the tokenization arrangement and to manage the new risks relating to ownership and technology appropriately.”

Related: HSBC and Ant Group test tokenized deposits under HKMA sandbox

Despite federal efforts to tokenize investment products, the interest in crypto for Hong Kong locals witnessed a significant decline.

A survey conducted by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s business school revealed that the alleged $166-million JPEX scandal negatively impacted investors’ willingness to invest in crypto.

Out of the 5,700 respondents, 41% would prefer not to hold digital assets.

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