We have compiled the following chronology table which serves as a quick reference point to track the circulars and guidance published by HK financial services regulators in relation to COVID-19. We will update the table regularly. Kindly note that the table is not intended to capture all regulatory publications on an exhaustive basis.

Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) Circulars/Guidelines

 

TITLE

SUMMARY

DATE

LINK

REMARKS

1

Joint Statement in relation to General Meetings in light of the Prevention and Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation

The SFC and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (SEHK) published a joint statement regarding the impact of the recently introduced Prevention and Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation (Cap. 599G) on corporate annual general meetings (AGM), extraordinary general meetings (EGM) and special general meetings (SGM). The SFC and SEHK clarified that AGMs fall under an exemption in Cap. 599G, while EGMs and SGMs can also fall under the same exemption under certain circumstances. The SFC and SEHK also set out some guidelines for listed issuers to consider when deciding on the timing of their meetings.

1 April 2020

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2

FAQ – Licensing related matters in light of the COVID-19 pandemic

The SFC published an FAQ on concerns and issues faced by intermediaries and licence applicants relating to licensing related matters. The FAQ covers issues such as working from home, and arrangements relating to extension of timeline for filing audited accounts or extension of timeline for completing annual CPT requirements.

31 March 2020

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3

Circular to intermediaries – Extended deadlines for implementation of regulatory expectations and reminder of order recording requirements under COVID-19 pandemic

The SFC published a circular on the extension of implementation deadlines for a number of upcoming regulatory expectations by six months, including expectations on the use of external electronic data storage, new measures to protect client assets (client asset acknowledgement letters), and data standards for life cycles. The SFC also reminded intermediaries of their need to continue to comply with the order recording requirements under paragraph 3.9 of the Code of Conduct for Persons Licensed by or Registered with the SFC.

31 March 2020

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Please also see Legal Update here

4

Circular to intermediaries - Reminder of important obligations to ensure suitability and timely dissemination of information to clients

The SFC published a circular reminding licensed and registered persons of their obligations under the Code of Conduct for Persons Licensed by or Registered with the SFC. In particular, the SFC emphasized the need to observe the suitability obligations when they make a solicitation or recommendation and the obligation to disseminate information in a timely manner when they hold an investment product directly or indirectly on behalf of clients, as well as the need to act in the best interests of their clients.

27 March 2020

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Please also see Legal Update here

5

Circular to management companies and trustees and custodians of SFC-authorized funds

The SFC published a circular reminding managers, trustees, and custodians of SFC-authorized funds of their obligations to properly manage the liquidity of their funds and ensure fair treatment of investors in the wake of the market volatility caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. The SFC  has stepped up its monitoring of authorized funds in light of the current market conditions.

27 March 2020

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Please also see Legal Update here

6

Further Guidance on the Joint Statement in relation to Results Announcements in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The SFC and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (SEHK) provided further guidance on the joint statement of 4 February 2020 regarding the release of results by listed companies. The SFC and SEHK provided clarifications on a number of issues, such as guidance for issuers who are unable to publish a preliminary results announcement in accordance with the Listing Rules by 31 March 2020 and guidance for both GEM and Main Board issuers on the publication of annual reports by the respective 31 March 2020 and 30 April 2020 deadlines.

16 March 2020

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7

Joint Statement in relation to Results Announcements in light of Travel Restrictions related to the Severe Respiratory Disease associated with a Novel Infectious Agent

The SFC and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (SEHK) issued a joint statement to listed issuers and auditors regarding the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the ability of listed issuers to meet reporting requirements under the Listing Rules, namely announcement of their financial information and results by the 31 March 2020 deadline. The SFC and SEHK noted that travel and other restrictions caused by the outbreak may cause disruption to the reporting and audit processes of listed issuers, and encouraged them to consult the SEHK and provide details of the circumstances which would prevent them from meeting the requirements. The SEHK will then provide further guidance in conjunction with the SFC.

4 February 2020

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Please also see the FAQ on the joint statement here

 

Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) Circulars/Guidelines

 

TITLE

SUMMARY

DATE

LINK

REMARKS

 1 Regulatory reserve
 

The HKMA published a circular informing locally incorporated authorized institutions (AI) of its decision to lower the regulatory reserve (RR) requirement on locally incorporated AIs by 50% with immediate effect. The HKMA noted that the decision was taken partly in light of the need to provide AIs with more lending headroom to support customers in coping with the COVID-19 outbreak, and encouraged AIs to do so. The HKMA expects that AIs should not use the RR release for dividend distribution, share buyback or payment of bonus to senior management. The HKMA will continue to assess the situation to determine if any further adjustments are necessary.  AIs may approach  the HKMA through their usual contacts at the Banking Supervision Department for any question about this circular.

The RR requirement was implemented under the Hong Kong Financial Reporting Standard 9 (HKFRS 9) since January 2018. The HKMA observes that locally incorporated AIs have made good progress in enhancing their expected loss provisioning models, systems and controls, and in general reported notable increases in their accounting provisions for the second half of 2019 given the deterioration in the economic environment.  This indicates that the “expected loss” provisioning requirement under HKFRS 9 is robust and responsive to changes in external conditions.  Accordingly, the need for locally incorporated AIs to maintain an RR on top of accounting provisions has diminished. This also plays a part in the HKMA's decision to lower the RR requirement.

8 April 2020 Click here  
 2 Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) measures (For AIs) The HKMA published a circular setting out measures which should be taken by Authorized Institutions (AI) against money laundering and terrorist financing in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, and the HKMA's support in implementing such measures. The measures focused on three main elements, namely remote on-boarding and simplified due diligence, continued vigilance to COVID-19 related financial crime risks, and ongoing outreach and advice. The HKMA will continue to work constructively with AIs to keep its assessment of the situation up-to-date and address practical AML/CFT issues that may be related to COVID-19 in the most pragmatic manner, including through the provision of further guidance to support the current industry efforts in the light of evolving situation.  AIs may approach the HKMA through their usual contacts in the AML & Financial Crime Risk Division or aml@hkma.iclnet.hk for any question about this circular.  7 April 2020 Click here  
 3 Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) measures (For SVF Licensees) The HKMA published a circular setting out measures which should be taken by Stored Value Facility (SVF) Licensees against money laundering and terrorist financing in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, and the HKMA's support in implementing such measures. The measures focused on three main elements, namely customer due diligence, continued vigilance to COVID-19 related financial crime risks, and ongoing outreach and advice. The HKMA will continue to work constructively with SVF licensees to keep its assessment of the situation up-to-date and address practical AML/CFT issues that may be related to COVID-19 in the most pragmatic manner, including through the provision of further guidance to support the current industry efforts in the light of evolving situation.  SVF licensees may approach the HKMA through their usual contacts in the AML & Financial Crime Risk Division or aml@hkma.iclnet.hk for any question about this circular.    7 April 2020 Click here  

4

The HKMA and the banking sector join forces to help Hong Kong’s economy overcome the outbreak of COVID-19

The HKMA published a press release summarizing the results of a meeting with Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation Insurance Limited (HKMCI), major banks, and representatives from the commercial sector regarding measures by banks and the HKMA to support SMEs in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. The HKMA noted that a number of previous measures had seen success and provided statistics in this regard. The HKMA and HKMCI also suggested 5 more measures to further support SMEs in addressing cash-flow pressure.

3 April 2020

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Please also see Legal Update here

5

Liquidity measures in response to Covid-19 outbreak

The HKMA published a circular outlining liquidity measures taken to ensure the continued operation of the interbank market and banking system. The measures taken focus on three aspects, namely the HKMA’s Liquidity Facilities Framework, the Federal Reserve’s temporary Financial Services Instant Messaging Association (FIMA) Repo Facility, and the HKMA’s supervisory expectations on the use of liquidity buffers under the liquidity coverage ratio (LCR) and liquidity maintenance ratio (LMR) regimes. The HKMA also reminded authorized institutions (AI) to ensure they have the appropriate internal policies and processes in place when using the HKMA’s liquidity facilities and buffers, and the HKMA will reach out to AIs to ensure compliance.

3 April 2020

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Please also see the Annex to the circular containing clarifications on the HKMA’s Standby Liquidity Facilities (SLF) framework here

6

Deferral of Basel III implementation and HKMA’s supervisory actions in response to COVID-19

The HKMA published a circular in response to the decision by the Group of Central Bank Governors and Heads of Supervision (GHOS) to defer the implementation of Basel III by one year, to allow banks time to deal with current issues arising from the COVID-19 outbreak. The HKMA stated that it would accordingly delay its own implementation of Basel III to 1 January 2023, in line with GHOS.

30 March 2020

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7

Requirements under section 60 of the Banking Ordinance (Cap. 155) and disclosure requirements under the Banking (Disclosure) Rules (Cap. 155M)

The HKMA published a circular regarding the requirement for authorized institutions (AIs) incorporated in or outside Hong Kong to file audited annual accounts and other documents with the HKMA under section 60 of the Banking Ordinance. The HKMA will allow AIs to apply in writing for an extension of the deadline to do so, if necessary due to operational difficulties caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

7 February 2020

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8

Measures to relieve impact of the novel coronavirus

The HKMA published a circular outlining measures that authorized institutions (AI) should implement to relieve the impact of COVID-19 on their customers. The measures include temporary relief measures to lessen the impact of financial stress, such as principal moratorium for residential and commercial mortgages and fee reduction for credit card borrowing. The HKMA also suggested AIs should adopt a sympathetic stance in dealing with customers facing financial stress, and communicate their policies to relevant staff to ensure consistent treatment of customers.

6 February 2020

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Insurance Authority (IA) Circulars/Guidelines

 

TITLE

SUMMARY

DATE

LINK

REMARKS

1 Submission of statutory, actuarial and financial return The IA sent a letter to authorized insurers reminding them of their obligations to submit on an annual basis various statutory, actuarial and financial returns to the IA. The letter also reminds any authorized insurer which anticipates difficulties in meeting the submission deadlines given the current COVID-19 situation to inform its case officer as soon as possible and obtain the extension required. 9 April 2020 Click here  

2

Phase 2 of the temporary facilitative measures to tackle the outbreak of COVID-19

The IA published a circular introducing phase 2 of the temporary facilitative measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Phase 2 extends the measures to cover term insurance policies, refundable insurance policies without a substantial savings component, and renewable insurance policies without cash value that provide insurance protection (eg hospital cash, medical, critical illness, personal accident, disability or long-term care cover).

27 March 2020

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Please also see Legal Update here

3

Submission of Audited Financial Statements and Auditor’s Report under Section 73(1) of the Insurance Ordinance (Cap.41) (“IO”)

The IA published a circular regarding the requirement for licensed insurance broker companies to submit audited financial statements and an auditor’s report under section 73(1) of the Insurance Ordinance (Cap.41). The IA will allow broker companies to apply for an exemption to the deadline to submit these documents under section 79 of Cap.41, if such companies encounter difficulties in complying with the deadline due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The IA will consider the circumstances and impact of the outbreak on each individual broker in assessing the application.

24 February 2020

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4

Temporary facilitative measures to tackle the recent outbreak of Novel Coronavirus

The IA published a circular introducing temporary facilitative measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The measures largely involve the facilitation of the distribution of Qualifying Deferred Annuity Policy (QDAP) and Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS) products via non-face-to-face methods, provided that authorized insurers adopt two compensating measures – upfront disclosure and an extended cooling-off period. The circular also sets out guidelines on the implementation of non-face-to-face distribution methods.

21 February 2020

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Please also Legal Update here