Julia Leung, the first woman CEO of Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission is a major achievement. Leung was appointed in January 2023 and her tenure coincides with Hong Kong’s renewed efforts to establish itself as an important digital assets hub.

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Leung is a former reporter at Asian Wall Street Journal. This may make her seem like an unlikely candidate for a regulator. She has extensive experience in market development, financial regulation and international cooperation. She spent 14 years at the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the last eight of which she was the executive director in charge of financial cooperation with Mainland China as well as international regulators.

Leung and colleagues have been working hard to get Hong Kong onto the map as a crypto hotspot. She said that cryptocurrency platforms are part and parcel of the Web3 ecosystem, and she was very supportive of its development.

The SFC opened up retail trading to a selected group of cryptocurrencies at the start of this year. However, there were a number of restrictions. Leung, for example, said that only “highly-liquid” assets would be included on the list.

The Hong Kong Securities Watchdog released proposed rules in February and invited public feedback. In June, right after <a href="https://forkast.news/beijing-releases-web3-white-paper-highlights-challenges-in-talent-rules/#:~:text=Technology%20Commission%20%2F%20WeChat-,Beijing's%20local%20government%20on%20Saturday%20released%20a%20white%20paper%20outlining,%2Dfungible%20tokens%20(NFTs). Beijing released its Web3 White Paper, Hong Kong implemented a new licensing regime for providers of virtual assets and the SFC started accepting applications for crypto exchanges.

After the JPEX scandal, which involved an unlicensed crypto-platform, the SFC decided that all applicants for crypto trading licenses would be made public. In December, three firms including OSL Digital Securities and HashKey Exchange, as well as Investment Firm Victory Securities had received retail trading licenses.

Hong Kong changed its position on crypto ETFs in November. This allowed intermediaries to provide services to a larger range of clients. Recently, has allowed tokenized securities to be issued and traded.

Leung was the leader of the SFC, which issued a license for Swiss crypto bank SEBA to carry out regulated activities in Hong Kong. This included dealing in and distributing virtual asset-related products. UBS Group wealthy clients can trade the three crypto ETFs that are authorized by SFC starting in November.

Leung plays a crucial role in orchestrating the crypto activity in a major financial center. In 2024, we’re going to hear more about crypto from Leung.