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  • K Kim and S Pettigrove

HK launches stablecoin sandbox to prepare for regulatory framework

On 12 March, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) announced the launch of its stablecoin issuer sandbox representing another step forward in the city's efforts to establish itself as Asia's leading digital assets hub.

A regulatory sandbox is a concept often deployed in the fintech space to permit individuals to test innovative products and services in a risk-controlled environment. The HKMA has deployed a number of sandbox programs previously, including the ‘Fintech Supervisory Sandbox’ and ‘Wholesale Central Bank Digital Currency’ (wCBDC) sandbox. 

In a press release, HKMA’s Chief Executive Eddie Yue highlighted the importance of the sandbox arrangement as a channel to:

Exchange views…facilitate the formulation of fit-for-purpose and risk-based regulatory requirements, which is key to promoting the sustainable and responsible development of the stablecoin issuance business.

The Official Notice identifies four key objectives of the Sandbox as follows:

Support the development of virtual asset ecosystem in Hong Kong;
communicate supervisory expectations and guidance on compliance;
obtain feedback on the proposed regulatory requirements; and
develop and promote good practices in key areas including reserves management and stabilisation, governance, user protection, AML/CFT, data transparency, etc.

Stablecoin issuance within the sandbox will be limited in scope, with restrictions on the number of users, size of issuance and importantly will not involve retail or consumer funds during the early stages. In assessing applications to participate in the sandbox, the regulator will consider a range of factors including use case, stabilisation and user protection mechanisms, among others.  

The latest initiative follows Hong Kong’s public consultation on the regulatory framework for stablecoin issuers, commenced in late 2023, which sought views on a number of issues, including licensing requirements for stablecoin issuers.

Businesses with ‘genuine interest’ in stablecoin issuance are encouraged to apply to the sandbox. The list of approved participants will be publicly accessible here

The sandbox proposal is a good example of a flexible regulatory tool designed to test innovative products under modified regulatory settings, enabling both regulators and participants to learn and adapt from user experience. A number of forward looking jurisdictions have recommended or are deploying sandboxes as a tool to prepare the groundwork for regulated digital assets products and services.

Written by Kelly Kim and Steven Pettigrove


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