DEC 27, 2023
Hong Kong offers crypto ETF promise despite focus on U.S. approval
Industry leaders are turning their attention to Hong Kong as a notable location for spot bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs). That speculation arises in anticipation of the United States granting approval for such ETFs, with Hong Kong emerging as a likely frontrunner in Asia.
In a recent report, The Block spoke with a couple of prominent industry stakeholders, who appear to acknowledge the significance of moves towards seemingly expanding crypto ETF product offerings in Hong Kong, even though the bulk of the industry’s attention has been on U.S. spot bitcoin ETF approval.
U.S. ETF expectations
On Monday, the research arm of crypto derivatives platform BitMEX calculated that the arrival of such a product in the United States could dwarf the total value locked within existing crypto-related exchange traded products (ETPs). Earlier this month, a researcher at crypto asset manager Bitwise suggested that U.S. spot bitcoin ETFs would be the most successful ETF products ever launched.
Acknowledging Hong Kong’s position
With all the focus on the U.S., could it be that Hong Kong will play a far greater role in the global crypto ETF business? Yat Siu, the chairman of Web3 investor Animoca Brands, highlighted the encouraging position of Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) toward digital assets, laying a foundation for potential spot bitcoin ETFs.
Referring to the SFC’s recent statement expressing openness to expanding access to digital assets, Siu emphasized the relatively uncontroversial nature of a spot Bitcoin ETF. He noted:
“If you look at what the SFC had said about I think a month ago, it says that it was open to widen access to digital assets. And frankly, Bitcoin spot ETF is, I would say, relatively uncontroversial at the end of the day.”
Poised to usher in spot ETFs
As the U.S. inches closer to approving its first spot bitcoin ETF, Hong Kong could likely follow suit, benefiting from the groundwork already laid by U.S. regulators. In fact, just last week both local regulators, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) and the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), signaled that they are happy to start to accept applications for the provision of crypto-related spot ETFs. Siu pointed out the abundance of public filings and applications that Hong Kong authorities can reference in shaping their regulatory framework.
Julia Leung, SFC CEO, stated in November that the regulator was evaluating spot crypto ETFs while expressing openness to proposals leveraging innovative technology for efficiency and enhanced customer experience. Presently, Hong Kong has listed several futures-based crypto ETFs, including the Samsung Bitcoin Futures Active ETF, CSOP Bitcoin Futures ETF and CSOP Ether Futures ETF.
Glenn Woo, Head of Sales of APAC at Web3 infrastructure company Blockdaemon, echoed the positive sentiment, noting that while traditional asset managers may have lingering concerns, there is a prevailing appetite for such financial instruments in Hong Kong. Woo, drawing on over a decade of experience in the traditional financial industry in Hong Kong, emphasized the growing interest, anticipating that the appetite will expand further once the U.S. approves its first bitcoin ETF.
Hong Kong’s long-standing reputation as a global financial center, combined with the potential of crypto ETF products, will likely boost crypto adoption in the region and the significance of Hong Kong’s role in the sector with it.