HONG KONG — Hong Kong is set to tighten regulations on cryptocurrencies, with plans to put exchanges, traders and other related companies under the oversight of the Securities and Futures Commission.

With less stringent rules on digital currencies than mainland China, where all crypto-related commercial activities are effectively banned, Hong Kong has become a thriving market for initial coin offerings. But growing concerns over fraud and money laundering have prompted the regulator into action.

According to the SFC’s guidelines, investment funds will be required to obtain a license if more than 10% of the assets they manage are made up of bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, and will be allowed to sell related products only to professional investors.

Under the voluntary scheme, exchanges will be able to test virtual currency products or services temporarily in a “regulatory sandbox” before deciding on whether to seek a license.

The proposed regulations, which are to be implemented in stages, will also mean that companies can only issue ICOs for tokens that fulfilled SFC’s requirements. For instance, the tokens must have existed for at least 12 months.

In February, the SFC sent warning letters to seven local exchanges after receiving complaints from investors claiming they had been unable to withdraw fiat or cryptocurrencies from their accounts. Certain exchanges were accused of misappropriating assets or manipulating the market.

In March, the commission ordered Black Cell Technology to halt its ICO and charged the company with conducting unauthorized promotional activities.

Hong Kong’s actions reflect a growing trend. The Group of 20 leading economies is considering ways to regulate virtual currency assets as part of the global fight against money laundering.

As a financial center closely linked to mainland China, Hong Kong is taking steps in the right direction with measures like requiring identity verification for transactions, said Daisuke Yasaku of the Daiwa Institute of Research.

But the “cost of regulations will be high,” he warned.

Depending on the design of its platforms, an exchange can be required to report frequently to the authority and subject to rigorous inspections and monitoring, Yasaku pointed out.

“The requirements of the SFC initiative may prove too burdensome for some operators”, said Timothy Loh, who manages a law firm in the territory. Some will decide not to join the new framework in order to maintain their current shares in the market.

Some argue that higher trading costs also risk discouraging institutional investors from entering the market, dampening hopes that their presence will help stabilize it. The counter argument is that tighter regulations may lead to greater investor confidence over the long run.

*This post is credited to Nikkei Inc

Tuesday brings expansion in Japan, more mining woes in China, blockchain compliance in Abu Dhabi and in Hong Kong and ‘political’ crypto in Malaysia

Hong Kong port embraces blockchain: Hong Kong’s Modern Terminals have signed a deal to use a Maersk-IBM blockchain platform. The TradeLens solution works to process documentation and verification to speed up customs clearance. More than 20 port and terminal operators globally are piloting the solution. The system claims to allow shippers, shipping lines, freight forwarders, port and terminal operators, inland transportation and customs authorities access to operational data – including container temperature and information weight – and also to blockchain smart contracts.

 

World’s first ‘political’ crypto in Malaysia: Bank Negara Malaysia, the country’s Central Bank, says they must approve all new digital currencies. This comes as the crypto-currency Harapan Coin is launched. The team behind the initiative calls it the world’s first “crypto-politic” coin and it is backed by Paratan Harapan, the current government ruling coalition who have created it to elicit “opposing sentiments against the current governing coalition, in preparation for the coming election.” They hope to raise $120 million. And to date? $715.35.

*This post is credited to Asia Times

Hong Kong’s biggest ever gathering of global blockchain leaders, hosted by NexChange

HONG KONG, Nov. 6, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — The Official Hong Kong Blockchain Week will be launched from March 4 – 8, 2019 and be hosted by NexChange. Blockchain business and technology leaders from around the world will converge in Hong Kong.

The week will be anchored by NexChange’s Block O2O Global Blockchain Summit 2019 (March 5-6). The Hybrid Summit will be hosted by Strategic Programme Partner Hybrid Block on March 7. The Week will be supplemented by over 20 accredited events, details of which can be found at hkblockchainweek.net.

Over 120 speakers from 50+ countries will meet with more than 150 investors and in excess of 100 journalists at HKBCW.

Hong Kong is Asia’s premiere blockchain conference center for new blockchain enterprises to come and raise money, for major exchanges to establish themselves and for investors to decide where to place their bets in the blockchain future. Major corporate players will come to network, learn, and present their solutions alongside influential global NGOs.

The Hong Kong government has made a major push to support research and development of new technologies, including funding for blockchain. Major government departments and research centers are lining up to stand behind Blockchain Week.

From Bitcoin loyalists to those building Blockchain 2.0, 3.0, and beyond, Hong Kong will gather over 3,000+ delegates at the main event and at smaller blockchain events across Hong Kong. Deep dive education, practical workshops, networking opportunities, exhibitions and site tours will make it an action-packed week.

Hong Kong is host to crypto’s biggest exchanges, the highest concentration of investors and the most crypto-active community in Asia. Major consortia like Hyperledger have made Hong Kong home for their Asia Pacific leaders. Bitmain chose Hong Kong’s stock exchange for its upcoming listing. Major multinationals have blockchain research labs and architects situated in the heart of Asia.

Powered by NexChange, there will be a blockchain expo and a blockchain conference. Hear from blockchain experts on:

Cryptonomics    

Investment Climate 

Blockchain for finance

ICOs vs VC and IPOs 

Regulatory Issues   

AI and blockchain

Security Tokens

NexChange CEO and Founder, Juwan Lee, says, “It is time for the first official Hong Kong Blockchain Week with the full support of the vibrant global blockchain community coming together. ”

About NexChange

NexChange is an innovation ecosystem-as-a-service, specialising in fintech, insurtech, blockchain, AI and healthtech. By creating a global O2O community, we create, market and invest in innovative products:

  • Innovation Studio – Creating or collaborating with partners to create strategically innovative products.
  • Product Marketing – Strategically and tactically marketing products through the global O2O community.  Advising companies on their go-to-market strategies.
  • Ventures – Investing, advising, accelerating and acquiring companies that create innovative products.  We source deals and facilitate partnerships.

*This post is credited to Prnewswire

Hong Kong is a paradox within the Chinese political model. Cryptocurrencies are straight up banned in Mainland China, but apparently, Hong Kong is open for business!

Until now the regulations for cryptos in Hong Kong have been pretty loose. Unsurprisingly the financial hub has become a haven for crypto exchanges, and blockchain development companies. Now it looks like Hong Kong’s securities regulator is working on stricter controls for crypto exchanges.

Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) just announced that they would be creating a more formal regulatory environment for crypto exchanges and investments, in what they are calling their, “guidance on regulatory standards.”

SFC chief Ashley Alder said that, “The market for virtual assets is still very young and trading rules may not be transparent and fair,” according to a Bloomberg. He went on to say that, “Outages are not uncommon as is market manipulation and abuse. And there are also, I am afraid, outright scandals and frauds.”

Hong Kong is Still Ready to Deal

Unlike the stance that Mainland China has taken, the Hong Kong SFC seems to be moving towards a firmer regulatory environment, not an outright ban. The SFC has a duty to protect investors and fund managers in one of the world’s most prominent financial markets, and as cryptos become more popular, there will have to be a higher level of accountability in the industry.

The SFC released a statement that details some of their motivations, “In order to afford better protection to investors, the SFC considers that all licensed portfolio managers intending to invest in virtual assets should observe essentially the same regulatory requirements even if the portfolios (or portions of portfolios) under their management invest solely or partially in virtual assets, irrespective of whether these virtual assets amount to ‘securities’ or ‘futures contracts.’”

Additionally, fund managers that choose to hold more than 10% of their assets in cryptos will have to comply with new regulations, and there will also be a sandbox scheme forthcoming that will help professional traders develop new tools. There may also be new licensing procedures foe exchanges, though there don’t seem to be any firm dates or regulations so far.

The SFC adds that, “…It is proposed that the standards of conduct regulation for virtual asset trading platform operators should be comparable to those applicable to existing licensed providers of automated trading services,” which suggests that the SFC is just bringing crypto regulations in-line with the same code that applies to other securities.

Big Money in Exchanges

Despite the fact that crypto prices have been off all year, global crypto exchanges seem to be making a lot of money. Coinbase is on track to generate more then a billion USD in revenue, and Binance made almost $200 million USD last year (ending January 2018), which is as much as some major banks.

Bloomberg’s Julie Verhage reported that, “The company’s (Coinbase) $1.3 billion in sales for 2018 comes from the commissions on trades on its platform, as well as from gains and losses in its own crypto holdings. Because the firm looks at several internal measures of revenue, the exact figures can vary.”

No matter how their results are measured, revenue in the billions is a pile of cash. It is easy to see why Hong Kong is looking for ways to keep existing crypto exchanges happy, and foster an environment that is supportive of future growth.

Other smaller nations like Malta and Singapore are competing with Hong Kong for blockchain and crypto business, so making sure that regulations aren’t restrictive will be very important for the SFC to keep in mind.

More Projects in the Pipeline

Hong Kong just became home to the eTrade connect platform, which has been in the works for months. The trade finance platform was designed originally by Ping-An, a mainland Chinese company. The new trade finance platform is based on Hyperledger Fabric, and its predecessor has already been used successfully in Chinese markets.

According to reports from HSBC the platform has already been used with Pricerite. The chairman of Pricerite, Bankee Kwan, said that, “Blockchain has transformed a cumbersome, complex process into a simpler but more secure and efficient way of conducting trade.”

Some of the largest banks in the world are working with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) on this project, including, HSBC, Standard Chartered, Agricultural Bank of China of Beijing, and BNP Paribas.

Hong Kong is certainly one of the best places in the world for a blockchain-based trade finance platform to catch-on. They offer a deep and evolved capital market to global business, and some of the best port facilities in the world.

*This post is credited to Blockonomi

Hong Kong is searching for new ways to improve cryptocurrency trading activities in the country. Hong Kong’s financial watchdog wants to protect investors by regulating cryptocurrency trading platforms. This is something very similar to what Japan has been doing in the last months.

Hong Kong’s Financial Watchdog to Regulate Crypto Trading

According to Carlson Tong Ka-shing, the outgoing chairman of the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), the agency has certain limits. He explained that the SFC can only rule about securities.

During a conversation with the South China Morning Post, he said that a ban on crypto trading would not be effective. Transactions can be performed at all times via platforms in overseas markets. It is important to remember that mainland China has imposed a strict ban on virtual currencies.

However, the SFC wants to regulate the market and control the activities. Furthermore, the agency has only warned investors about investing in cryptos. But there is also an increased number of users and merchants working with virtual currencies. That means that the regulator faces increased pressure to impose formal rules in the market.

On the matter, he commented:

“We have to carefully consider the regulatory approach for these platforms because they are new technology and may not qualify as securities. They do not fit in the custodian, audit or valuation requirements, for instance, normally expected under the Securities and Futures Ordinance.”

Additionally, he said that there is no other international market with a comprehensive regulatory framework for crypto trading platforms. They are analysing how to create one that will ensure investors’ interests.

And indeed, cryptocurrency exchanges have been welcoming to this specific move. Angelina Kwan, the chief operating officer of BitMEX, said that they would work closely with the SFC on regulations. BitMEX is one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency trading platforms.

“The US has introduced regulations over cryptocurrency and there are futures products being traded by the CME Group and the CBOT,” she commented. “This shows that a regulatory authority can help to develop a new industry.”

Jeremy Allaire, founder and chief executive of Circle, said that they know that their OTC trading desk in Hong Kong operates without clear regulations. He said that they will pay close attention to the new regulatory frameworks that could emerge.

There are some countries such as Malta or Switzerland that have been very welcoming towards crypto and blockchain companies. These nations have developed flexible legal frameworks for firms to grow while protecting investors.

Japan has also been imposing several regulations to cryptocurrency trading platforms. Since the beginning of the year, several companies in the Japanese market experienced different issues. For example, the crypto exchange Coincheck was hacked for $500 million dollars.

Now, crypto companies and exchanges in Japan must follow strict rules to operate.

*This post is credited to Use The Bitcoin

Swiss cryptoasset firm Crypto Finance says it will use its newly won regulatory approval as a platform for foreign expansion, most likely in Asia. The firm’s Crypto Fund unit was awarded an asset management license by the Swiss financial regulator on Tuesday.

The license will allow Crypto Fund to sell cryptocurrency-linked collective investment schemes to institutional clients on the same footing as traditional asset managers in Switzerland. The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) license was the first of its kind awarded to a cryptoasset company.

“Before getting the license we were a start-up. Now we are a fully-fledged member of the regulated, established financial system,” Crypto Finance CEO Jan Brzezek told swissinfo.ch. “FINMA has exacting standards that are appreciated by other regulators around the world.”

This gold-plated seal of approval should give the Zug-headquartered firm enough clout to persuade other jurisdictions to allow the company to set up residence, Brzezek believes. “Asia is an open-minded market, open for financial innovation,” he said. “In Asia banks don’t mean physical buildings, they are apps.”

Strategic partners

Crypto Finance is exploring opportunities in Singapore, Hong Kong and other states. But the final destination depends on which country’s regulator is prepared to open their arms to the company.

The firm is also looking to partner with strategic investors in Asia to help smooth the way into the new market once it has found a location for its new branch.

Another factor influencing Crypto Finance’s foreign expansion timing is the calming of volatility in the cryptocurrency markets. Although bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have lost a great deal of their dollar-conversion value this year, the boom and bust cycle of 2017 appears to Brzezek to be over.

For now, the company is concentrating on expanding its range of financial products by adding two more European-based funds, one passive and another to be actively managed on behalf of clients. A Swiss-based fund linked to a basket of cryptocurrencies is also likely to be on the horizon.

Storage breakthrough

And the firm recently made another breakthrough when a Swiss bank, which Brzezek declines to name, agreed to onboard his company’s cryptocurrency storage solution. This will allow the bank to take custody of clients’ bitcoins.

The year-long journey to getting a FINMA license obliged Crypto Finance to jump through a number of hoops for the Swiss regulator. Quite apart from demanding stringent anti-money laundering requirements, the regulator went through the firm’s financial books, business plan, products, management team and investors with a fine comb.

But the effort will bear fruit, according to Crypto Fund Chief Operating Officer Mathias Maurer. For one thing, Crypto Fund is no longer obliged to limit the amount of assets it manages on behalf of clients to CHF100 million.

The 20-year veteran of the Swiss banking and hedge fund industry also believes the cryptoasset financial market is on the verge of rapid growth.

“The promise is huge,” he told swissinfo.ch. “Up until now it has been very tech-driven, but we are starting to see the first concrete use cases that can switch the vision into reality. Just as with the hedge fund industry, it may take two or three years to convince people to invest in this asset class. Then it will really take off.”

Crypto Finance

Crypto Finance was established in Zug in June 2017 with financial support from a range of investors including hedge fund pioneer Rainer-Marc Frey. It carries out much of its operations in Zurich, a stone’s throw from the Paradeplatz banking centre and the old site of the Swiss stock exchange.

It consists of three business units. The asset management Crypto Fund division recently won a FINMA license. Crypto Broker currently links 88 institutional clients, including banks and family offices, with 10 crypto trading exchanges, such as Bitstamp and Kraken. Crypto Storage offers a solution for clients who want to safely store their cryptocurrencies. It has recently signed up an unnamed Swiss bank to use its services.

The company currently employs 40 staff and has around 15 external developers. It does not give information about its financial performance.

*This post is credited to SWI swissinfo.ch

While China continues to eye cryptocurrencies with a healthy dose of suspicion, acceptance, and popularity in the rest of Asia is on the increase. In fact, a Hong Kong-based firm is hope’s its investment will help pave the way for a cryptocurrency bank.

According to a recent report, the firm in question has bought a stake in a cryptocurrency company, a start-up with a goal to become a licensed and authorized cryptocurrency investment bank.

The platform, which is based in the crypto hub of Zug in Switzerland is, however, still awaiting approval from the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) to trade as a banking and securities dealer.

This approval will allow the start-up to extend to Asia and assist blockchain-based platforms to gain access to traditional banking systems. The spokesperson for the investment capital firm explained their support of the start-up by saying that the firm believes it can support the cryptocurrency start-up’s plan to expand into Asia, a region where cryptocurrency trading and blockchain projects have been flourishing.

This support could extend to the start-up’s ICO, which is scheduled for some time in the third quarter of next year, where the investment firm could make a contribution.

While the capital firm manages over HK$7.83 billion ($1 billion) and has interests in FinTech and logistics, this is the company’s first foray into blockchain.

Both the investing firm’s investment amount, as well as the contribution of the U.S.-based asset management firm, have not been disclosed.

The start-up’s CEO stated that the bank’s first focus will be on transaction banking. It was explained that it has been tough for blockchain start-ups to grow their businesses as they are unable to access the traditional banking system.

The start-up, thus, is building infrastructure to allow companies to pay salaries in cryptocurrencies, and bridging the disconnect between fiat and cryptocurrency payment.

Another reporting agency previously reported that a few surveys show that there is indeed an interest in people having parts or even all of their salaries paid in virtual currency.

The company’s CEO also added that the start-up should receive the required regulatory approval in the first half of next year.

They will also eventually offer digital asset custody services to their institutional clients. In addition, the crypto bank will offer liquidity services to exchanges.

This growth in services will extend to staff numbers as the platform plans to double its number of employees by the beginning of next year.

As reported earlier, Hong Kong has been named the eighth-best city for tech enterprises, like the aforementioned start-up.

It was found that, with a score of 59%,  while Hong Kong is not typically viewed as an innovation hub for tech occupiers, it is becoming more appealing for several reasons which include connectivity with Shenzhen and South China, recent expansion in Hong Kong by big tech firms such as the world’s largest social media platform and one of China’s largest multinational conglomerates, which specialises in e-commerce, retail, Internet, AI and technology.

Moreover, tech occupiers are attracted to the accelerating investment in fintech in the city.

Moreover, the city is working to facilitate the introduction of virtual banking as another model of service delivery, with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority stating that it welcomes the establishment of virtual banks in Hong Kong, in early September 2018.

The development of virtual banks, according to the HKMA, will promote the application of financial technology [Fintech] and innovation in Hong Kong and offer a new kind of customer experience. In addition, virtual banks can help promote financial inclusion as they normally target the retail segment, including the small and medium-sized enterprises.

If Hong Kong keeps up this pace of manifestation (of the goals/objectives in the Smart City Blueprint), it will move up the ranks of the report.

*This post is credited to OpenGovAsia

A division of Greenlight Capital Re has invested in a blockchain-related business based in Hong-Kong.

The Cayman Islands-headquartered property/casualty specialist reinsurer said it pursued a strategic investment in Galileo Platforms through its Greenlight Re Innovations arm. Greenlight Re did not disclose the specific dollar amount, though the investment is part of Galileo’s Series A financing.

Greenlight Re Chief Executive Officer Simon Burton said that the investment is a key element that will help it tap into blockchain for its insurance business.

“The management team of Galileo has a unique combination of insurance leadership experience and expertise in applying distributed ledger technology [blockchain] to real world insurance applications,” Burton said in prepared remarks. “We are excited about this partnership and the opportunity to build a business of the future.”

Galileo Platforms is an insurance and reinsurance Platform as a Service (PAAS) business, focused currently on emerging markets in Asia. Galileo launched in May 2016 and its founders Mark Wales and Annette King are seasoned executives in the Asia Pacific region with extensive C-Suite and startup expertise in insurance, wealth management and banking, working for companies such as Deloitte, Capgemini, Manulife, AXA, and Mercer, according to the deal announcement.

Greenlight Re Innovations said it believes that blockchain has the potential to dramatically restructure the way insurance is distributed. It views Gallieo’s secure platform as reducing IT costs and eliminating high-cost, low-value components in the insurance distribution chain.

This is the first announced investment by Greenlight Re Innovations since it was launched in March 2018 with a mission of seeking technology and innovation opportunities for the reinsurance and insurance markets.

In prepared remarks, King and Wales said they are “exited” Greenlight Re is the lead investor for its Series A financing.

“We share a common vision that blockchain technology can transform the insurance industry, by enabling more agile product design, making transactions more transparent, and enabling real-time transactions amongst all the parties,” King and Wales said.

Launched in 2004, Greenlight Re is a specialist property and casualty reinsurer with companies based in the Cayman Islands and Ireland. Greenlight Re provides risk management products and services to the insurance, reinsurance and other risk marketplaces.

*This post is credited to InsuranceJournal

The real estate market of Hong Kong is said to be one of the most expensive in the world, alongside New York, London, and Sydney. Yet, crypto startups are moving into the most valuable skyscrapers in the city.

On August 22, CCN reported that BitMEX, a popular cryptocurrency exchange that facilitates Bitcoin and Ethereum margin trading, moved its headquarters to Cheung Kong Center’s 45th floor, renting out 20,000 square feet at $28.66 per square foot.

Its old headquarters were based in Victoria Harbor, a region within Hong Kong that is known for expensive residential properties. In Victoria Harbor, BitMEX paid around $3.18 per square foot and in Cheung Kong Center, BitMEX is paying $573,200 per month, at a rate of $28.66 per square foot.

BitMEX will operate its office in the most valuable skyscraper with Hong Kong alongside major financial institutions such as Bank of America Corp, Barclays Plc, Bloomberg LP, Goldman Sachs Group Inc and the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong.

Banks are Moving Out of Skyscrapers

According to a report released by SCMP, a mainstream media outlet in Hong Kong, even major banks like Goldman Sachs and BNP Paribas have started to explore cheaper locations for their offices in Hong Kong due to rising rental fees.

Annual office rental costs in Hong Kong Central average around US$307 per square foot a year, a rate that easily surpasses London’s West End and Beijing’s Finance Street.

BitMEX and Diginex Global, two crypto startups based in Hong Kong, are renting out 72,000 square feet in total, paying around $1.3 million per month.

“Blockchain companies show no signs of slowing their expansion in Hong Kong. These firms are leasing space in top-tier office buildings to attract and retain talent.” Philip Pang, an associate director of office services at Colliers, told SCMP.

The local publication reported that Goldman Sachs is relocating from Hong Kong Central to Causeway Bay in the next few months to save 30 percent on rent. BNP Paribas has also relocated its office to Swire Properties’ Taikoo Place.

While JPMorgan has leased the Quayside in Kwun Tong near Victoria Harbor, the cost of rent comes nowhere close to the rent BitMEX will be paying throughout the years to come.

Landlords Not Confident in Crypto

Over the past nine months, despite the 80 percent drop in the valuation of the crypto market, cryptocurrency-related businesses have prospered. Specifically, exchanges have continued to generate large revenues.

However, local publications have reported that Cheung Kong Center demanded BitMEX to pay a year’s rent upfront, which is estimated to be around $6.8 million, demonstrating the lack of confidence in crypto-related businesses by major landlords in the Hong Kong real estate market.

“It’s pretty common for landlords to ask for larger deposits from tenants with weaker covenant strength. Landlords are always open to taking on new tenants, it’s just a matter of balancing rent against flight risk,” said Denis Ma, head of research at Jones Lang LaSalle.

With the one year’s rent at Cheung Kong Center, it is possible to purchase multiple story buildings in many major cities like Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Min, Tokyo, and Busan.

*This post is credited to CCN

Hong Kong Fintech Week (HKFTW) 2018 will mark a milestone for the Greater Bay area — as the world’s first cross-border fintech event straddling two cities, Fintech Week will demonstrate the growing economic synergy between Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

Organized by InvestHK, Finnovasia and Finovate, the event will highlight recent fintech developments in Hong Kong including virtual banking licenses, enterprise blockchain, digital payments, artificial intelligence, regtech, insurtech, wealthtech, cybersecurity, and the pending common QR code, among other themes.

In addition to hosting a panel of esteemed speakers addressing key topics across innovation and finance, Fintech Week will also provide various networking activities for startups and investors. Government representatives and mature companies such as WeBank, Tencent and Zhong An will also be participating in the event.

With Chief Executive Carrie Lam officiating the launch ceremony, there’s no mistaking what Fintech Week says about Hong Kong — a contemporary financial hub that intends to look to the future and become a global leader. Indeed, the event tagline reads ‘Launch. Leap. Lead.’

Expect Fintech Week to be rich, informative, and full of opportunity.

HKFTW will take place in the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Center from October 29 to November 1, with ‘Shenzhen Day’ completing the programme on November 2.

For more information, visit www.fintechweek.hk.