中国区块链服务提供商火币科技近日发布公告称,其全资资产管理子公司火币资管已获得香港证监会颁发的加密货币资产管理牌照,获准发行100%虚拟资产基金。盛德律师事务所在火币取得牌照过程中为其提供法律意见。

火币资管自此成为自香港证监会2019年10月颁布执行虚拟基金经理需遵守的条例后,第二家获批的虚拟资管公司,也是第一家获得香港证监会允许发行主动投资策略虚拟资产基金的公司。收获“绿灯通行”的火币资管将发行三只虚拟货币基金:比特币追踪基金,以太坊追踪基金和多策略虚拟货币基金。

获取该牌照意义重大。首先,火币资管得以提供完全受监管的加密基金,使得亚洲机构市场更方便且可靠地获取这类资产。火币资管首席执行官Gillian Wu表示:“合规平台发行的虚拟基金产品在亚洲市场仍然相当罕见,承销商正在积极与我们建立联系。”其次,这反映着香港正在加快建设成为虚拟资产管理与交易中心。

虚拟资产在香港进入“快车道”
盛德团队此项目牵头合伙人林惠贞律师告诉ALB:“近年来,香港政府一直在通过各种努力夯实其作为国际资产管理中心的地位,而火币选择受到香港证监会的监管,也进一步巩固了这一地位。”

林律师发现,火币此次的成功对市场产生了“催化剂”的作用,更多的香港资管公司开始反思其业务。“在火币发出公告后,大量基金管理公司联系盛德团队,咨询获得同样许可的可能性。”她说,“中长期来看,由于投资者对100%虚拟资产组合类产品的需求升高,可以预见会有更多的资产管理公司得到香港证监会的许可。”

与此同时,香港证监会也在组建一支专注金融科技、具有商业敏感性的授权人员团队。林律师认为这对整个行业大有裨益。“长期以来,香港一直谨慎建立并完善其监管架构,致力于为投资者提供充分保护,同时又避免打压金融服务业的创新性,”她说。

仍需更多“玩家”与更清晰规则
尽管前景光明,但从监管的角度来看,香港离实现全球虚拟资产中心的地位仍有距离。林律师提出两点建议:首先,应允许散户参与交易。她表示,“香港证监会授权的虚拟基金管理和交易仅限于专业投资人参与,香港的散户无法进行投资,往往只能参与到还未受监管的产品交易中,面临着更大的风险。”

这样的情况似乎在短期内无法获得改善。林律师指出,目前有一项提议正在被考虑中。“它建议对在香港经营、且只交易非证券虚拟资产的虚拟资产交易所引入牌照规定,而其中一条建议的规定是,获得牌照的交易所只服务于专业投资人。如果得以实施,那么散户将又一次被拒之门外。”

放眼其他国家,美国和加拿大的监管部门已经批准专注于加密货币的交易所交易基金上市,且散户投资者可以参与到交易中。 “香港若想要成为全球虚拟资产交易中心,也需要采纳这一做法。”她呼吁道。

林律师的第二条建议则是明确虚拟资产发行的标准。

“发行一直是香港证券型代币的一大瓶颈。”她说,并同时指出,香港监管部门至今只发放了一项允许虚拟资产发行的牌照,该牌照的发行是出于在香港经营虚拟资产交易所的目的。然而,目前并没有看到证券型代币在香港的持牌交易所交易,并且,证监会对于批准证券型代币上市也还未设置清晰的流程和明确的标准。因此,林律师表示,香港的生态系统需要更多有资质的发行人共同助力推动虚拟资产的发行,还需要明确代币在香港持牌交易所上市的标准与要求。

“这两方的共同努力能使发行人和服务提供商更有可能将香港作为他们运营虚拟资产的大本营,任何一方的缺失都会阻碍另一方的积极性。”林律师说。

ALB Analysis: Huobi’s virtual asset management license in Hong Kong shows city is becoming a hub for Chinese cryptocurrency companies

Huobi Asset Management, the Hong Kong-based subsidiary of Chinese blockchain technology services provider Huobi Technology Holdings, recently received approval from the city’s Securities and Futures Commission to manage virtual asset funds.

The grant of the license makes Huobi Asset Management the second licensed virtual asset manager in Hong Kong since October 2019. It is also the first licensed virtual asset fund manager approved by the SFC to issue virtual asset funds with an active investment strategy. Using this license, Huobi Asset Management plans to launch three virtual asset funds: BTC Tracker Fund, ETH Tracker Fund, and Multi-strategy Virtual Asset Fund.

The license is significant for two main reasons. First, it allows Huobi Asset Management to offer fully regulated crypto funds, enabling easier and reliable access to this alternative asset class for the Asian institutional market. “Distributors have been keen to get in touch with us, the feedback we have received is that products like this are still quite rare in the Asian market,” said Gillian Wu, CEO of Huobi Asset Management. But more importantly, it establishes Hong Kong as a fast-growing home for Chinese cryptocurrency firms.

Hong Kong building fast lane for virtual assets

Lawyers and other industry experts see this as a trend that is here to stay. “The decision by Huobi to become regulated in Hong Kong reinforces Hong Kong’s position as an international asset management hub, which the Hong Kong government has been working very hard to bolster in recent times with various reforms including changes that make Hong Kong domiciled fund vehicles easier to use and significant tax concessions,” says Joy Lam, the Sidley Austin partner who led the team advising Huobi on its SFC license.

Lam has found that the license has become a catalyst for other asset managers in Hong Kong to reflect on their own business plans. “Following Huobi’s announcement, we have already been contacted by a significant number of other asset managers who are keen to explore seeking the same approval,” she says. “In the short to medium term, we can expect to see more asset managers authorized by the SFC to manage 100% virtual asset portfolios, as investor demand for this kind of product grows.”

Another advantage of Hong Kong is the SFC’s recruitment of highly skilled personnel. “The SFC has invested in developing a small team of “very commercial, sharp, fintech-dedicated licensing officers,” says Lam, who adds that it is benefiting the industry. “The Hong Kong regulator has been carefully crafting the regulatory framework, trying to ensure adequate investor protection without stifling innovation in the financial services industry,” she adds noting that Huobi’s decision to become regulated in Hong Kong validates its position as a hub.

Needed: More players, clearer rules

While Hong Kong’s prospects in the virtual-asset space look bright, there are still some gaps to be filled from a regulatory standpoint. Lam points out two main areas, with the first being access for retail investors. “Currently, access to virtual assets funds managed by SFC licensed fund managers and trading on SFC licensed virtual assets exchanges is limited to professional investors only,” she says. “This means that retail investors in Hong Kong cannot access these products or services from licensed operators – instead, retail investors are limited to unregulated products and unregulated exchanges only, which arguably carry more risk.” That said, there is a proposal currently under consideration to introduce licensing requirements for virtual assets exchanges operating in Hong Kong that trade non-security virtual assets only and
it remains to be seen whether this will also limit access to professional investors only, Lam adds.

The second involves clarifying requirements for distribution. “Distribution has been a significant bottleneck in Hong Kong for tokenized securities (including tokenized funds which are becoming increasingly popular) and other digital offerings.” Lam says. She adds that there are neither security tokens trading on the licensed exchanges in Hong Kong, nor any standardized process or clear criteria established by the SFC for approving security tokens to be listed.

In this context, Lam points out that the ecosystem in Hong Kong needs several distributors who are appropriately licensed to assist with the distribution of virtual assets including securities. The ecosystem also needs clarity on what the requirements are for tokens to be approved for listing on Hong Kong licensed exchanges. “Lacking either of these could be a significant deterrent to issuers and service providers who may otherwise consider Hong Kong as a base of operations.” Lam says.