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Hong Kong's banking regulator issued four more virtual banking licenses, bringing the total of authorized online-only banking operators to eight, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) said Thursday.
The four new license owners are Ant SME Services (Hong Kong) Ltd., a unit of Alibaba Group affiliate Ant Financial; Infinium Ltd., a joint venture between Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd., state-owned bank Industrial & Commercial Bank of China and Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd.; Insight Fintech HK Ltd., a joint venture backed by smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp.; and a unit of Chinese insurance giant Ping An Group.
The HKMA said issuance of the four additional licenses completes the first round of virtual bank selection. The launch of the eight virtual banks, seven of which are backed by mainland internet or financial companies, is seen as a significant shake-up in the city’s traditional banking industry. The virtual banks intend to launch services in six to nine months.
Earlier this year, the HKMA granted virtual banking licenses to Livi VB Ltd., a joint venture formed by Bank of China and JD.com; SC Digital Solutions Ltd., a joint venture between Standard Chartered Bank (HK) Ltd., Hong Kong telecom provider PCCW and Chinese online travel company Ctrip.com; ZhongAn Virtual Finance Ltd., a subsidiary of Chinese online insurer ZhongAn Online P&C Insurance Co.; and WeLab Digital Ltd., a fintech company that offers mobile lending services primarily in Hong Kong and mainland China.