By Georgina Lee
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong securities watchdog will propose a subset of tokens it would allow for retail investors’ trading, its chief executive said on Wednesday, as it presses on with a new regulatory regime that will make the city more friendly to crypto startups.
As investor protection will continue to be the focus of the new virtual asset service provider (VSAP) regime, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) will also seek public views about specific guardrails for retail trading, said Julia Leung, chief executive officer at the commision.
“Virtual assets have in the past year gone from peak to low (price) levels. The good thing is that when the froth is taken out from the system as platforms and some tokens collapsed, it focuses investors and sellers’ minds on investor protection,” Leung said at a panel discussion at the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong on Wednesday.
Hong Kong’s move to allow retail trading in cryptocurrencies has come after months of turmoil in the sector, with the collapse of crypto exchange FTX the latest blow.
Bitcoin, the biggest cryptocurrency, has lost more than 70% of its value since hitting a record high in November 2021.
The SFC will start accepting applications for VASP licences, in mid 2024, Leung said. The new crypto regime requires all trading platforms and exchanges to apply for a licence failing which would result in fines and jail terms,
Industry sources have said they expected the consultation on retail trading to start within the first quarter. Leung said the tokenization of investment funds and bonds will also fall under the purview of the SFC.
(This story has been refiled to update Leung’s title in the second paragraph)
(Reporting by Georgina Lee; Editing by Kim Coghill)