HONG KONG, Sept 8 Hong Kong's banking regulator
on Thursday urged financial firms to review requirements that
have made it virtually impossible for startups and small
companies to open bank accounts in the city.
Opening bank accounts has been one of the key issues holding
back the development of financial technology (fintech) companies
in Hong Kong as it competes with Singapore, Australia and China
to lure investments in the sector.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) on Tuesday also
launched a regulatory regime known as a "sandbox" for innovation
in the banking sector, amid fears the city is losing ground to
The measures aren't aimed at helping facilitate the account
openings of fintech companies specifically, HKMA Deputy Chief
Executive Officer Arthur Yuen told a news conference, but to
"make sure banks do not lean against anyone in particular."
In a circular to banks, the regulator said robust measures
to combat money laundering and terrorist financing were
important, but it expected banks to "refrain from adopting
practices that would result in financial exclusion."
Some 20 banks out of the more than 150 under the HKMA's
supervision have volunteered to be put on a list welcoming
accounts from startups and small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs).
Yuen didn't disclose the list of "startup friendly banks",
but said HSBC and Standard Chartered
were not on the list.
"We welcome the announcement of the HKMA's guidelines on
account opening for businesses in Hong Kong and will study these
further. We share the Authority's commitment to ensuring that
SMEs in Hong Kong have ready access to banking services," a
spokesman for HSBC in Hong Kong said in a statement.
StanChart didn't immediately reply to a Reuters request for
comment on why it didn't join the list.
Both banks have received billions of dollars in fines from
regulators overseas for anti-money laundering lapses.
(Reporting by Sijia Jiang; Writing by Elzio Barreto; Editing by