SEBA Limited, backed by a Swiss crypto bank with crypto capabilities, is set to become the first licensed corporation in Hong Kong. The crypto-friendly SEBA Bank has received in-principle approval from the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) to operate regulated activities in virtual assets and expand its foothold in the Asian crypto market.
On August 30th 2023, SEBA Hong Kong announced that its in-principle approved licence from the FSC would allow it to operate with crypto products, including over-the-counter derivatives, provide advice on securities and digital assets and conduct asset management for discretionary accounts in both traditional securities and virtual investments. The approval of SEBA makes the Switzerland-headquartered bank a significant frontrunner in Hong Kong’s burgeoning crypto economy.
Insight from the SEBA Leadership
The Regional CEO for SEBA in the Asian-Pacific region, Amy Yu, expressed optimism regarding the possibilities in Hong Kong, providing enormous potential due to the SFC’s virtual asset regulatory framework and the city’s legal system. Yu said, “It is exciting to be at the forefront of innovation in one of the world’s leading financial and technological centres, Hong Kong. While China has a crypto trading ban, Hong Kong is well-positioned to tap into the Chinese market when it opens up, as it’s in a strategic location in being close to the mainland, while also being a Special Administrative Region of China”.
The Regional CEO added, “Hong Kong may once again serve as a gateway to China, delivering the significant potential of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology”. Yu further highlighted SEBA’s ambitious vision to secure the future of the global crypto economy for the regions of Singapore and Hong Kong, citing a surge in demand from crypto establishments for comprehensive banking solutions. SEBA offers traditional banking and crypto services such as staking, lending, trading and custody in Switzerland.
The Group CEO of SEBA Bank, Franz Bergmueller, said, “SEBA Hong Kong’s AOP reflects our team’s commitment toward compliance and due diligence – essential pillars of tomorrow’s digital economy”. Bergmueller added, “Complementing SEBA group’s established licences in Switzerland (FINMA) and Abu Dhabi (FSRA), the Hong Kong AIP significantly extends our global regulatory footprint. SEBA group aligns itself with the Hong Kong government and its financial regulators in facilitating an environment that supports the responsible growth of the digital assets industry”.
Hong Kong as a Crypto Hub
In November 2022, SEBA inaugurated its office in Hong Kong, providing consultancy services and market research and attracting strategic partners for its head office in Switzerland. A welcome mat for the crypto industry in Hong Kong was rolled out during its annual fintech gathering in October, which coincided with the local administration’s announcement of policy directives relating to crypto. The city’s Legislative Council then sanctioned a comprehensive licensing structure for crypto platforms. SEBA in Hong Kong collaborated with its Zurich counterpart to install greater autonomy for the Asian branches in the foreseeable future.
Emerging Crypto Landscape in Hong Kong
SEBA’s approval, in principle, comes amid an upsurge in regulated crypto transactions in the city. HashKey, a crypto exchange, upgraded two major licences issued by the SFC to emerge as the first exchange in Hong Kong to achieve regulatory clearance and initiated retail trading for Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH), which began on August 28th 2023. Hong Kong’s securities laws allow HashKey to trade virtual assets and provide automated trading services for institutional and retail users. Group Chief Operating Officer of HashKey, Livio Weng, expressed confidence in the approved licence and clarity of regulatory frameworks in Hong Kong. Weng said, “The industry as a whole will witness increased transparency, leading to a significant boost in investor confidence”.
On August 3rd 2023, OSL, a crypto firm, received a green light from the SFC to offer BTC and ETH retail trading services, according to Bitcoin Decode. Co-founder of OSL, Dave Chapman, mentioned that the licence approval allows the firm to facilitate access to virtual assets for retail investors. Chapman emphasised that OSL has been fully regulated for digital asset trading by the SFC since 2020. Head of Regulatory Affairs at OLS, Gary Tiu, said, “This is a monumental moment not only for OSL but for the broader crypto market. By granting this licence uplift, the SFC has shown that it is possible for digital asset markets to be regulated and safe”. The two are currently the only fully licensed exchanges in Hong Kong. Despite this, the dynamics may soon change, as on August 11th 2023, the Hong Kong Virtual Asset Exchange (HKVAX) obtained in-principle approval from the SFC to operate a crypto trading platform.
SEBA Hong Kong’s licence is an essential milestone in the Asian-Pacific crypto banking sector to provide crypto services for investors with the securities and customer experience, especially in Hong Kong, spotlighting the region’s evolving stance and growing acceptance of the crypto landscape.