The Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) issued a position paper Nov. 6th defining a new regulatory framework for virtual asset trading platforms. In it, they outlined the parameters under which VSTs would be eligible to apply for a license from the SFC. Virtual asset trading platforms are platforms that offering trading of security tokens.
A virtual asset is a digital representation of value. Also known as a cryptocurrency, a crypto-asset or a digital token, the estimated total market value of virtual assets is now between $200-300 billion. As of November 2019, there are over 3,000 digital tokens and 200 virtual asset trading platforms.
Now the SFC adopted a new set of regulatory standards for virtual asset trading platforms similar to those applicable to licensed securities brokers and automated trading venues. The standards were passed in order to address key regulatory concerns surrounding the tokenization of digital assets. Of primary concern to regulators are the safe protection of assets, KYC requirements, anti-money laundering, and terrorism counter-financing.
According to the position paper released this month, the SFC will only grant licenses to platforms that are capable of meeting the standards outlined by their committee. While enthusiasm for ICOs waned throughout 2019, other forms of virtual asset fundraising hold continued buzz. Securities such as STOs are typically structured to provide the same features as traditional securities, but also involve digital proof of asset ownership using blockchain technology.
“Regulators need to be open to the benefits of innovation, but they should also be ready to tackle the risks to investors which some financial technologies give rise to,” said Mr. Ashley Alder, the SFC’s Chief Executive Officer.
As part of the newly announced regulations, the SFC also made it clear that virtual assets traded on licensed platforms will not require compliance with the same set of financial regulations as traditional security offerings.
Additionally, the SFC issued a warning to investors regarding the high risks associated with purchasing virtual asset futures contracts, citing their unregulated nature and security vulnerabilities. While this warning served largely as a side note to the excitement surrounding the announcement, investors and digital asset owners alike likely still have a long way to go before these concerns can be fully addressed and their digital assets safeguarded.