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Aaron Dauber

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Aaron Dauber is a Knowledge Lawyer in Baker McKenzie Hong Kong office.

Hong Kong continues to have an active and growing money-lending market. Since 2016, the Hong Kong Government has adopted a four-pronged approach to enhancing the compliance standards of non-bank money lenders. The Hong Kong Companies Registry (CR), which currently performs the role of Registrar of Money Lenders (“Registrar”) pursuant to the Money Lenders Ordinance (MLO),1 recently released a new Guideline on Fit and Proper Criteria for Licensing of Money Lenders2 (“Fit and Proper Guideline”) and a Guideline on Submission of Business Plan by Applicant of a Money Lenders Licence3 (“Business Plan Guideline”). The new guidelines (“Guidelines”) will be effective from 1 April 2021. In this publication, we provide an overview of the money lenders regime in Hong Kong and the implications of the new Guidelines on new and existing market participants. 

In his recent 2021-22 Budget Speech,1 the Financial Secretary (“Financial Secretary”) of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (“Hong Kong Government”) confirmed the intended timing for submission of a legislative proposal to allow foreign investment funds to re-domicile to Hong Kong for registration as an Open-ended Fund Company (OFC). The Financial Secretary also announced subsidies for the costs of setting up a new OFC or re-domiciling of foreign investment funds registering as an OFC in Hong Kong. The latest measures represent further important steps in ongoing enhancements and incentives to promote use of the OFC regime. We discuss the recent developments in more depth below.

Hong Kong continues to have an active and growing money-lending market. Since 2016, the Hong Kong Government has adopted a four-pronged approach to enhancing the compliance standards of non-bank money lenders. The Hong Kong Companies Registry (CR), which currently performs the role of Registrar of Money Lenders (“Registrar”) pursuant to the Money Lenders Ordinance (MLO),1 recently released a new Guideline on Fit and Proper Criteria for Licensing of Money Lenders2 (“Fit and Proper Guideline”) and a Guideline on Submission of Business Plan by Applicant of a Money Lenders Licence3 (“Business Plan Guideline”). The new guidelines (“Guidelines”) will be effective from 1 April 2021. In this publication, we provide an overview of the money lenders regime in Hong Kong and the implications of the new Guidelines on new and existing market participants. 

In his recent 2021-22 Budget Speech,1 the Financial Secretary (“Financial Secretary”) of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (“Hong Kong Government”) confirmed the intended timing for submission of a legislative proposal to allow foreign investment funds to re-domicile to Hong Kong for registration as an Open-ended Fund Company (OFC). The Financial Secretary also announced subsidies for the costs of setting up a new OFC or re-domiciling of foreign investment funds registering as an OFC in Hong Kong. The latest measures represent further important steps in ongoing enhancements and incentives to promote use of the OFC regime. We discuss the recent developments in more depth below.

On 20 January 2021, the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (“SFC”) and the Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand (“Thai SEC”) jointly announced1 (“Announcement”) that they had entered into a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) for the Mutual Recognition of Funds between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and Thailand (“HK-TH MRF”).2 The HK-TH MRF represents a significant additional step to foster closer ties and financial cooperation between Hong Kong and Thailand. It follows, amongst other existing arrangements, the long term co-operation between the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and Bank of Thailand to explore a Distributed Ledger Technology solution for cross border funds transfers known as project Inthanon – Lionrock3 and the Memorandum of Understanding on the Strengthening of Economic Relations signed on 29 November 2019 by the respective governments.4 In this Client Alert we provide an overview of some of the key aspects of the HK-TH MRF.

Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) published a number of developments to its open-ended fund companies (OFC) regime in the last few weeks of 2020. On 23 December 2020, the SFC released both its conclusions (“Conclusions”) on the customer due diligence (CDD) requirements for OFC consultations and updated frequently asked questions (FAQ) relating to OFCs to clarify custodial requirements.

The Conclusions represent the culmination of the SFC’s further consultation on the CDD requirements to be imposed on OFCs, as released in September 2020 in its consultation conclusions related to further enhancements to the OFC regime (“September Conclusions”).1 The new CDD requirements will come into effect after a six-month transition period following the completion of the legislative process to amend the Securities and Futures Ordinance (SFO). The September Conclusions contained, amongst other things, liberalisation of the types of entities that can act as custodian and the updated FAQ provide clarification of the requirements for an OFC’s custodial arrangements. We discuss the Conclusions and updated FAQ in more depth in this Alert.

The Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) recently released additional guidance on external electronic data storage in the form of frequently asked questions (FAQs)1, which elaborate on the requirements for using external electronic data storage providers (EDSPs) under the SFC’s 31 October 2019 circular (“EDSP Circular”)2. The FAQs provide further guidance on the following key aspects: (i) key personnel requirements for the purpose of the EDSP Circular; (ii) the application of the EDSP Circular where electronic regulatory records are kept with affiliates; and (iii) the use of undertakings by designated Manager(s)-in-Charge (MIC(s)) / Responsible Officer (RO) (“MIC/RO Undertaking”) as acceptable alternatives to the undertakings provided by the EDSPs (“EDSP Undertaking”). We discuss the implications in these areas further below. The SFC has also made consequential changes to its Frequently Asked Questions on premises for business and record keeping3.

In brief On 3 November 2020, the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau (“FSTB”) of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region launched a consultation1 (“Consultation”) on proposals to enhance anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing (“AML/CTF”) regulation in Hong Kong under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing Ordinance (“AMLO”).…