Hong Kong: Introducing Spot Crypto Trading

Hong Kong has approved the launch of exchange traded funds (ETFs) that directly invest in bitcoin and ether, the world’s largest cryptocurrency tokens. The city is seeking to take pole position in the burgeoning but unstable virtual asset sector, and including an ether ETF elevates its standing while the US has delayed a decision on such a product.

Already, the overseas arm of mainland Chinese fund house Bosera Asset Management and Hong Kong-based virtual asset firm HashKey Capital have received “conditional approval” from the city’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) to jointly launch spot crypto ETFs, both firms announced in mid-April.

Chinese fund managers Harvest International and China Asset Management Company (ChinaAMC) are also expected to receive approvals from the city’s capital markets watchdog, Caixin has reported. ChinaAMC announced it is working on crypto ETF products after it received SFC approval to provide virtual asset management services.

Hong Kong crypto ETFs will not be available to mainland investors, however.

“This self-imposed limitation may unnecessarily constrain Hong Kong’s ETF competitive edge from its full potential,” says Joshua Chu, a crypto and fintech lawyer in the city.

The SFC initially published rules permitting spot crypto ETFs, including spot ether ETFs, in December, making the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR) the first Asian jurisdiction and the first international financial center to approve such a product. Conversely, the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which approved spot bitcoin ETFs in January, has persistently delayed deciding on ETFs that directly invest in ether, the native token of the Ethereum blockchain. A decision is expected late this month.

There is pressure for the SEC to hurry up. Since January, bitcoin ETFs have seen more than $200 billion in trading volume, according to crypto news and data outlet The Block.

Hong Kong’s securities regulator has not made any announcement on ETFs, as none have yet been officially approved. Provisional approvals enable market entrants to prepare to offer such funds, however, such as applying to Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) to offer them on the city bourse. Spot crypto ETFs can benefit investors seeking exposure to virtual assets without creating blockchain wallets or attending to other cumbersome details. ETFs also have mainstream appeal, since they can be included in retirement funds.