Hong Kong Monetary Authority takes first steps on digital currency, seeks comments on ‘e-HKD’

·3-min read

Hong Kong’s de facto central bank has taken a “first step” in its exploration of a digital currency, and has sought feedback from academics as well as the finance industry.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) issued a 50-page white paper called “e-HKD: A technical perspective” on Monday with the idea of exploring potential architecture and design options for the digital currency. It has listed seven major areas and will collect comments by the end of this year.

The HKMA emphasised that it had not decided to launch the e-HKD and simply wanted to collect views before it took a decision mid next year.

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“The white paper marks the first step of our technical exploration for the e-HKD,” Eddie Yue, the authority’s CEO, said. “The knowledge gained from this research, together with the experience we acquired from other central bank digital currency projects, would help inform further consideration and deliberation on the technical design of the e-HKD.”

The white paper comes as the HKMA plays catch up with other central banks globally that are considering digital currencies. It has also been working with the People’s Bank of China on the possibility of using the Chinese central bank’s digital currency in Hong Kong. The aim here is to make it easier for Hongkongers and mainland Chinese users to make cross-border payments.

The digital currency, if launched, will not have any implications on the Hong Kong currency’s US dollar peg, Howard Lee, the HKMA’s deputy CEO, said in June.

The consultation is part of a technology study under project e-HKD, which Yue announced in June during the launch of Fintech 2025, the HKMA’s fintech plan for the next four years. The authority emphasised that the proposed architecture and design were not blueprints for the e-HKD.

“Rather, it should be seen as the outcome of initial research, as well as a basis for initiating dialogues with central banks, the academia and the wider fintech community to collaboratively explore solutions for a retail central bank digital currency,” the de facto central bank said.

Among the seven major areas of concern listed in the white paper was users’ privacy and the central bank’s ability to trace the identity of owners of the digital currency. Other areas of concern included cybersecurity, the performance and scale of the digital currency, compliance with anti-money-laundering and other regulations, and a digital currency platform that is resilient and can support new functions.

The HKMA also wants the digital currency to be easily used by both conventional banking and new digital platforms.

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