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FEB 3, 2024

Bybit joins quest for VATP license in Hong Kong

by CoinNess Global

Leading cryptocurrency exchange platform Bybit has joined a growing list of competing platforms by applying for a Virtual Asset Trading Platform Operator (VATP) license with the Hong Kong Securities and Exchange Commission (SFC).
The application, submitted through the Bybit affiliate business entity Spark Fintech Limited on Jan. 31, is currently under review along with 13 similar VATP applications.

Strategic licensing play

In the dynamic landscape of cryptocurrency regulations, obtaining a VATP license in Hong Kong is a strategic move. Currently, only two crypto exchanges, OSL and HashKey Exchange, are licensed by the SFC in Hong Kong. OSL secured its license on Dec. 15, 2020, while HashKey Exchange was licensed on Nov. 9, 2022. Under a partnership agreement with OSL, Interactive Brokers has been enabled in its ability to commence trading in Hong Kong.
Exchanges who have followed through on the license application process include OKX, Gate.io, and KuCoin, among others. It’s not something that is being taken on without these platforms weighing up the long term potential due to the cost implications. It emerged last year that companies were spending up to $25 million in their efforts to obtain licensing in Hong Kong.

VATP vs. VASP licensing

The VATP license holds significance as it allows Hong Kong-based firms to cater to retail customers in contrast to the Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) license, which restricts companies to serving professional investors. In Hong Kong, investors must have portfolios valued at a minimum of eight million Hong Kong dollars ($1.03 million) to qualify for professional investor status.
Hong Kong has positioned itself as a leading destination for crypto companies, particularly in 2023, owing to its favorable regulatory approach compared to mainland China’s stringent crackdown on digital assets. The SFC has introduced crypto-oriented regulations, opening doors for both institutional and retail investors to participate in the crypto market. This regulatory environment has contributed to the city-state’s emergence as a hub for crypto activities.
Dubai-headquartered Bybit’s move to seek a VATP license aligns with the growing trend of crypto companies finding a home in Hong Kong. In a statement, Ben Zhou, the founder and CEO of Bybit, emphasized the city’s strategic location and established financial infrastructure as ideal for their operations and serving institutional clients across the Asia Pacific region.

Institutional offering

As part of its strategy to grow its institutional customer base, the company revamped its institutional market offering last October. With that institutional business in mind, it has also formed strategic partnerships, including collaborating with Talos, an institutional digital asset trading technology provider, and joining forces with Copper to offer custodial and settlement services for institutional clients through Copper’s ClearLoop service.
Bybit, launched in 2018 by Zhou, boasts a substantial user base, serving over 22 million registered users in 160 countries globally. Claiming a daily trading volume of $16.53 billion, Bybit holds the fifth-highest score among spot exchanges worldwide and is the second-ranked derivatives exchange, trailing only behind Binance, according to CoinMarketCap data. The exchange has consistently ranked in the top positions for futures and perpetuals trading throughout the last calendar year.
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