Hong Kong to Hold Individuals to Account with New Financial Rules

Hong Kong's financial firms must register managers responsible for the day-to-day running of regulated activities in an effort to make individuals more accountable, its securities regulator recently said.

People with overall management oversight and those in charge of key functions would need approval to act as "responsible officers", the Securities and Futures Commission ("SFC") said.

Its new "managers in charge" regime, which will significantly increase scrutiny of executives in Hong Kong's finance industry and increase their accountability, is part of a global push by regulators to raise conduct standards in the scandal-ridden financial industry. 

The SFC is the first Asia-Pacific regulator to adopt such a regime after Britain's Financial Conduct Authority introduced similar rules following more than two years of consultation.

It privately briefed banks and funds but opted not to issue a public consultation, sparking concern among industry participants who fear it is being rushed in.

Firms will need to review and possibly overhaul and re-document all reporting lines, governance structures and job descriptions. Many unlicensed managers, even those overseas, may also need to become directly licensed and accredited by the SFC.

Reuters reported last month the new regime will extend far beyond the front-line staff directly licensed by the watchdog to those in support functions including IT, operations, compliance and risk management. 

"Senior managers ... should be well aware of the obligations currently imposed on them as well as their potential liability if they fail to discharge their responsibilities," SFC CEO Ashley Alder said in a statement.

From 28 April 2017, firms will have to submit up-to-date management structure information and organisational charts to the SFC. All existing licensed corporations should submit the required information by 17 July, the SFC said.

The "managers in charge" of the overall management oversight and key business line functions, who are not already responsible officers, should apply for the watchdog's approval to become so by 16 October, the SFC said.

The new rules will also encompass executives involved in the day-to-day running of SFC-regulated activities who are based overseas as the SFC is concerned that it does not know the identities of many of those with crucial responsibilities at the 2,000 or so companies it regulates, market participants said.