Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission CEO, Julia Leung, has expressed openness to allowing retail investors to access spot ETFs that invest directly in cryptocurrencies, provided regulatory concerns are addressed. The decision aligns with the city’s efforts to bolster the digital asset ecosystem.
Mainstreaming Digital Assets
ETFs are viewed as a way to bring digital assets to a wider investor audience. Hong Kong and the US currently permit futures-based crypto ETFs, and Hong Kong lists a few such funds. However, the popularity of spot funds remains uncertain following challenges in the crypto sector, including a 2022 market downturn and high-profile fraud cases.
Hong Kong introduced a virtual asset regulatory framework in June to attract companies while focusing on investor protection. Recent events, such as a significant fraud at an unlicensed crypto exchange, underscore the importance of a robust regulatory framework. The Securities and Futures Commission has increased transparency in virtual asset exchange license applications.
Tokenization and Security Tokens
Hong Kong’s regulatory guidance now allows experimentation with different levels of tokenization, offering a roadmap for issuing tokenized funds and bonds to retail investors. The restriction on security token offerings, previously limited to professional investors, has been lifted. The city is also considering guidance for banks on providing digital-asset custodial services.
Numerous jurisdictions are competing to establish themselves as digital asset hubs, including Singapore, Dubai, and the European Union. Hong Kong is making strides in this direction, while the US has adopted a more stringent regulatory stance on digital assets.
Anticipated Growth in Tokenized Securities
Citigroup estimates that by 2030, tokenized private-sector securities and funds could reach up to $5 trillion, encompassing various asset classes, from corporate debt to alternative investments like real estate and private equity. This emerging market is attracting global attention.