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Hong Kong Awards Four More Virtual Banking Licenses

By NexChange

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) issued four more virtual banking licenses on Thursday, bringing the former colony’s number of virtual banks to eight.

The firms awarded with the licenses were Ant SME Services, Infinium Limited, Insight Fintech HK, and Ping An OneConnect.

Ant SME Services is a unit of fintech giant Ant Financial, while Infinium is a venture involving industry titans Tencent, ICBC, and Hillhouse Capital, among others.

As for Insight Fintech HK, it’s reportedly a joint venture between smartphone maker Xiaomi and capital markets player AMTD. Ping An OneConnect is – you guessed it – a subsidiary of Chinese insurance behemoth Ping An.

All four virtual banks plan to launch in roughly six to nine months.

“We are pleased to grant four more virtual banking licences today. The HKMA is now working closely with the 8 virtual bank licensees to prepare for the launch of their business operations in accordance with their plans,” said HKMA Chief Executive Norman Chan, adding:

“The launch of virtual banks in Hong Kong, which is a key component of the Smart Banking Initiatives, will certainly facilitate financial innovation, enhanced customer experience and financial inclusion,” he said.

Singapore may soon follow Hong Kong in providing virtual banking licenses, with DBS CEO Piyush Gupta saying “I see no reason why it would not.” The Monetary Authority of Singapore however, seems non-committal. Here’s Bloomberg:

“MAS is studying whether to admit such digital-only banks with non-bank parentage,” the financial regulator said in an emailed reply to questions from Bloomberg News. “We have been engaging relevant stakeholders to ascertain the unique value that such entrants could bring to our banking landscape, and understand how potential risks will be managed and contained.”

Photo: Chris Brown from Melbourne, Australia

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