Can A Hong Kong Bitcoin Market Replace China?
Earlier this week, OKCoin, previously the largest exchange in the Chinese cryptocurrency market, announced that its Hong Kong-based flagship trading platform raised tens of millions of dollars.
OKCoin Announcement and Giant Network Group Affiliation
According to the official statement released by OKCoin, its digital asset trading platform OKEx raised massive amounts of capital in an early-stage funding round led by Giant Network Group, Qianhe Capital Management, eLong, Longling Capital, and Ceyuan Ventures.
Giant Network Group and its founder Yuzhu Shi operate one of the largest internet ventures in China. The market valuation of Giant Network Group is more than $11 billion, and its investment into OKEx is said to be the first direct investment made to a cryptocurrency exchange by a multi-billion dollar Chinese conglomerate.
With recently secured capital and resources, OKCoin will aggressively target the Hong Kong cryptocurrency market and facilitate the demand for bitcoin for both Hong Kong and Chinese investors by focusing on the development of OKEx. The trading platform announced the following:
“OKCoin.cn, previously one of the biggest RMB to Bitcoin exchange platforms in China, and OKEx are two companies and teams that operate independently of each other. To comply with China’s cryptocurrency regulations, OKCoin.cn has already completed the assets withdrawal of customers, and transformed into a blockchain technology research company, which is currently working on blockchain projects with several financial enterprises.”
Within the first quarter of 2018, the OKEx development team will lead a major system overhaul, improving customer experience and implementing various upgrades to enhance the trading platform regarding efficiency, stability, and scalability.
For many years, the Hong Kong cryptocurrency and bitcoin exchange markets have struggled to demonstrate exponential growth, despite the introduction of friendly regulatory frameworks for cryptocurrency businesses by the state.
One major reason behind the growth lag of the Hong Kong market has been the centralization of talents and infrastructures in China. Due to the sudden surge in demand for digital currencies such as Ethereum and Litecoin, exchanges, mining companies, and service providers migrated to the Chinese market. This market, in particular, has a significantly bigger potential given its massive population.
National Fintech Acceptance
China has also been one of the few countries in the world to adequately embrace and adopt fintech applications and networks such as Alipay. Today, it is fintech service providers and online payment applications that process the vast majority of payments at stores, merchants, and online platforms in China.
Consequently, exchanges in the Hong Kong market were limited in serving the local market, restricting their potential consumer base.
However, when the Chinese government effectively banned cryptocurrency trading in September 2017, all of the relevant exchanges in China moved to Hong Kong.
OKCoin, BTCC China, and Huobi, three leading cryptocurrency exchanges in the Chinese market which had accounted for nearly 90 percent of the country’s daily trading volume, rebranded to OKEx, BTCC, and Huobi Pro respectively.
They then began launching cryptocurrency trading platforms and over-the-counter (OTC) markets in Hong Kong.
Since November, several Hong Kong-based exchanges including Gatecoin reported an unexpected and unforeseen closure of their bank accounts. Thomas Glucksmann, a Gatecoin executive, told the South China Morning Post in an interview that the abrupt closure of the company’s bank accounts led to a massive disruption to its business.
Glucksmann further emphasized that he believes Gatecoin and other exchanges in the local market were unfairly punished, given that the exchanges have implemented strict Anti-Money Laundering (AML) systems.
“We’ve been very much in favour of enforcing strict AML best practices; we do a lot of client due diligence and we don’t accept cash or cheques, because we have always wanted to make sure that we can associate every bank transfer coming in and out with the name of the client that has registered with us and we have all their [‘know your customer’ (KYC)] information,” said Glucksmann.
The entrance of large-scale cryptocurrency exchanges such as BTCC, Huobi Pro, and OKEx will likely change the entire Hong Kong bitcoin and cryptocurrency trading ecosystem. But more importantly, it will change the relationships between banks and bitcoin trading platforms.