Hong Kong Monetary Authority calls for more transparent anti-money laundering procedures
The pernicious problem of money laundering (AML) is far from being resolved, as the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has urged financial institutions to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach, which has proven to be a somewhat naive solution to this complex problem. Simply put, banks should not unnecessarily burden account opening.
Increased activity of companies in Hong Kong in opening bank accounts
Companies opening bank accounts in Hong Kong to take advantage of lucrative business opportunities has attracted considerable attention from HKMA Deputy Chief Executive Officer Arthur Yuen, whose written statement has sparked a cascade of “comments” about the burdensome nature of the process. Yuen attributed the increased activity to the end of the pandemic, which marked a surge in economic activity across the region.
Virtual assets: a challenge for the Hong Kong banking industry
According to Yuen, while adhering to the sacred principles of anti-money laundering due diligence, banks are encouraged to treat customers with the utmost fairness and improve access to basic banking services by implementing transparent, reasonable and efficient procedures. In addition, the HKMA has made it clear that:
“There are no regulatory requirements that prohibit Hong Kong banks from providing banking services to virtual asset (VA) entities.”
Hong Kong banks should not unreasonably burden account opening
On the contrary, the Hong Kong government has an open policy of promoting the development of the virtual asset sector, and a regulatory framework is in place to protect investors. Although some virtual asset businesses pose higher AML risks than others, the Hong Kong banking industry will gain a better understanding of the sector over time. As a result:
“We expect regulated virtual asset service providers (VASPs) to be able to successfully apply for a bank account through a reasonable process.”
Regulation of virtual asset service providers (VASPs) in Hong Kong
Yuen promised that a circular will be issued containing comprehensive guidelines and best practices, and a roundtable discussion will be held on April 28 “for an exchange of views between the banking industry and VASPs” to allow both parties to discuss ways to improve and enhance the banking experience.