SFC product applications: submission by soft copy and alternatives for signing application documents

Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has recently updated its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) in relation to authorized unit trusts and mutual funds, leverage and inverse products, MPF products, pooled retirement funds, investment-linked assurance scheme, paper gold schemes and open-ended fund companies (OFC), to provide that all documents relating to new applications or post-authorization matters are required to be submitted in soft copy only. The SFC also introduced alternatives for signing application documents. For example, the SFC will accept submission of unsigned copies of application forms, compliance checklists, confirmations and other relevant documents (collectively, Relevant Forms) if accompanied by an email confirmation from the eligible signatories that all information, confirmations, undertakings contained in the Relevant Forms and all documents submitted relating thereto are true and accurate.

In addition, the SFC previously required application fees to be submitted before it would take up an application. However, the SFC now only expects application fees to be submitted at a later stage, being as soon as practicable upon the applicant’s receipt of the SFC’s take-up letter or acknowledgement. Instead of delivering a physical cheque, the applicant may now contact its SFC case team to discuss payment arrangements.

Please note that for OFC applications, the above streamlined arrangements apply only to documents required by the SFC and not those required by the Companies Registry. Hard copies of documents and fees required by the Companies Registry for incorporation and business registration purposes should be submitted to the SFC as usual before the OFC registration is granted.

Historically, the SFC has required the submission of hard copies of documents in new and post-authorization applications in respect of publicly authorized products. In light of operational difficulties relating to COVID-19, the SFC began to accept soft-copy submissions and alternative ways of executing application documents as temporary relief measures in April 2020. The changes outlined above have formalised these temporary measures, which are a welcome move in improving the efficiency of regulatory processes, especially for product providers which are based outside Hong Kong.

You will find the updated Guides and FAQs here: https://www.sfc.hk/web/EN/faqs/publicly-offered-investment-product.html. Application forms and confirmations have also been updated and they are available here: https://www.sfc.hk/web/EN/forms/products/forms.html.