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A Guide on the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) of Hong Kong

December 2022

The Lanturn Team

Hong Kong has a highly developed free-market economy characterized by low tax rates, relatively free port trading, and an established financial market. To keep this growing economy stable and secure, Hong Kong has four financial regulators responsible for regulating a specific aspect of finance and investments. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority handles banking, The Insurance Authority for Insurance, the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority for the country's provident fund system, and the Securities and Futures Commission for everything relating to securities and futures.

Suppose you are a company or individual interested in securities and futures trading in the country. In that case, you need to be familiar with the SFC and all their regulations before you can even begin trading in HK.

What is the SFC?

The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) is the independent statutory body set up by Hong Kong in 1989 to regulate the country's securities and futures markets. The commission is also operationally independent from the government and funds itself mainly with transaction levies and licensing fees.

The Commission's functions and responsibilities are outlined in Cap 571 or the Securities and Futures Ordinance (SFCO), which helped Hong Kong establish this independent body. Their function as independent regulators is as follows:

  • Setting and enforcing market regulations, including investigating breaches of rules and market misconduct and taking appropriate enforcement actions;

  • Licensing and supervising intermediaries seeking to conduct regulated activities for which the SFC has regulatory responsibility, such as brokers, investment advisers and fund managers;

  • Supervising market operators, including exchanges, clearinghouses and alternative trading platforms, and helping to enhance market infrastructure;

  • Authorising investment products and offering documents before their distribution to retail investors;

  • Overseeing regulations governing takeovers and mergers of public companies and The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong's regulation of listing matters;

  • Co-operating with and assisting local and overseas regulatory authorities; and

  • Helping investors understand market operations, the risks of investing and their rights and responsibilities

To help manage the operations of the SFC, the Commission has four different operational divisions, these are:

1. Corporate Finance Division - Responsible for the dual filing functions to listing matters, administering the Takeovers and Mergers Code and Share Repurchases Code. This division also oversees the Stock Exchange's listing-related roles and responsibilities and issues securities and company legislation relating to listed and unlisted companies.

2. Intermediaries and Investment Products Division - Handles administering licensing requirements for securities and futures and leveraged foreign exchange trading intermediaries. They supervise and monitor intermediaries' conduct and financial resources and regulate the public marketing of investment products.

3. Enforcement Division - Conducts market surveillance to identify market misconduct for further investigation and investigates alleged breaches of relevant ordinances and codes, including insider dealing and market manipulation. They also institute disciplinary procedures for misconduct by licensed intermediaries.

4. Supervision of Markets Division is responsible for supervising and monitoring activities of the exchanges and clearing houses, encouraging the development of the securities and futures markets, and promoting and developing self-regulation by market bodies.

SFC Licence Application

Now that you've familiarised yourself with the Commission, let's review how to apply for a licence.

If you are a new applicant, whether as a corporate body or as an individual, you are required to submit an online application through an "individual account" or "Sub account of an Advisory Firm Account" on WINGS, the SFC's online platform for form submissions. 

Before applying, interested applicants must check that they have provided the following:

  • Completed answers to the questions in the application form, supplement(s), and questionnaires

  • All necessary supporting documents

  • Signature

Applicants can check their application progress through the WINGS platform. If their application gets approved, they will receive an email that will ask them to pay the required application fee through the online payment facility of WINGS. 

Below is the table for the required application fee as provided by the SFC:

Type of Application

Type of Regulated Activity (RA)

Application Fee Amount

Licensed corporation (LC)

Types 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

$4,740 per RA

Type 3


Temporary licensed corporation

Types 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 10

$4,900 per RA

Registered institution (RI)

Types 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10

$23,500 per RA

Licensed representative

Types 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

$1,790 per RA

Type 3


Provisional licensed representative

Not applicable

$800 per application

Temporary licensed representative

Types 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 10

$1,850 per RA

Approval to become responsible officer

Types 1 through 10

$2,950 per RA

Returned Application

If your application is returned, it is either incomplete or has unresolved issues that need to be taken care of before the Commission can process the application. Examples of why the SFC could return an application are as follows:

  • The applicant had not applied for the appropriate type of regulated activity.

  • Incomplete application form (Lacking supporting documents, skipped mandatory portions on the application, etc.)

  • The applicant has not met the competence requirements in the Commission's Guidelines on Competence.

  • Have indicated that the applicant needs an employment Visa in Hong Kong to do the proposed regulated activities but has not applied for one.

  •  The applicant is the director but had only applied to be its licensed representative instead of its responsible officer.

  • The application does not have at least two proposed responsible officers who have met the competence requirements for each regulated activity.

If the applicant can complete the lacking or unresolved issues noted by the Commission, they may refile their application for the Commission's reconsideration.

Declined Application

If your application does not meet the statutory requirements set by the SFC or the applicant fails to prove that they are fit and proper to be licensed and registered, the Commission will decline the application. But, according to Section 140 of the Securities and Futures Ordinance, applicants can appeal within 21 days to the Securities and Futures Appeal Tribunal.

All correspondence relating to the appeal must be addressed here:

The Secretary to the Securities and Futures Appeals Tribunal
38th Floor, Immigration Tower
7 Gloucester Road
Hong Kong

Approved Application

If you have satisfied all the requirements and have proven that you are fit and proper to be licensed or registered, the SFC will send the applicant an electronic approval letter via the WINGS mail. Only licensed corporations or registered institutions can request a physical copy of their approval letter.

If you need to confirm your licence or registration status, you may do so through the public register of the SFC. If there are any discrepancies, be sure to notify the Commission right away to rectify them.

Need help with your licence registrations in Hong Kong? Let us at Lanturn help you out. We have years of experience helping businesses of different sizes and investors apply for licences.

Reach out to us today if you want to learn more about how we can be of service.

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