Virtual bank is defined as a bank which primarily delivers retail banking services through the internet or other forms of electronic channels instead of physical branches.
The introduction of virtual banks in Hong Kong is a key pillar supporting Hong Kong's entry into the Smart Banking Era. The HKMA believes that the development of virtual banks will promote fintech and innovation in Hong Kong and offer a new kind of customer experience. In addition, virtual banks can help promote financial inclusion as they normally target the retail segment, including the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
To facilitate the introduction of virtual banks, the HKMA published a revised Guideline on Authorization of Virtual Banks (Guideline) on 30 May 2018, setting out the principles which the HKMA will take into account in deciding whether to authorize virtual banks.
As set out in the Guideline, in considering whether to approve or refuse an application for authorization, the HKMA needs to be satisfied that the minimum criteria for authorization in the Seventh Schedule to the Banking Ordinance (Ordinance) are met. Reference should therefore be made to the “Guideline on Minimum Criteria for Authorization” issued by the HKMA under section 16(10) of the Ordinance for details about the manner in which the HKMA will interpret these licensing criteria.
In this connection, companies intending to apply for a virtual banking licence are recommended to study carefully the information and the requirements as set in the HKMA's Guide to Authorization, particularly Chapter 2 - The Authorization Regime, Chapter 4 – Authorization, and Chapter 8 - Application Procedures.
Should you have any enquires on application process for an approval to set up a virtual bank in Hong Kong, please email to email@example.com.
Virtual banks are subject to the same set of supervisory requirements applicable to conventional banks.
That said, some of the supervisory requirements are adapted to suit the business models of virtual banks under a risk-based and technology-neutral approach.