A woman pays a bill with a phone, using QR code, in a supermarket. Photo: iStock

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) said Thursday it had granted banking licenses to another four companies, bringing the total number of virtual bank license owners to eight.

The four new license owners include Ant SME Services (Hong Kong) Limited, Infinium Ltd, Insight Fintech HK Ltd and Ping An OneConnect Company Ltd. According to their business plans, they intend to launch their services in about six to nine months.

The HKMA is now working closely with the eight virtual bank licensees to prepare for the launch of their business operations in accordance with their plans, according to a statement on its website.

It expects to be able to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the situation about one year after the first virtual bank has launched its service. After granting the four new licenses, the number of licensed banks in Hong Kong increased to 160.

On March 27, the HKMA granted the first three virtual banking licenses to Livi VB Ltd, SC Digital Solutions Ltd and ZhongAn Virtual Finance Ltd. On April 10, it granted one more to Welab Digital Ltd.

Norman Chan Tak-lam, the chief executive of the HKMA, said previously that the introduction of virtual banks in Hong Kong was a key pillar supporting the city’s entry into the smart banking era.

Ant SME Services (Hong Kong), a subsidiary of Alibaba Group and an operator of Alipay, will work closely with different parties in Hong Kong and jointly promote financial technology and inclusive finance in the city, according to an emailed statement.

“This is an important milestone for OneConnect, as it expands into the global market with Hong Kong, the region’s leading international financial services hub, as its springboard,” Chen Rong, vice-chairman and executive director of Ping An OneConnect Bank, said in a press release.

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