The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) is Hong Kong’s central banking institution. It is a government authority founded on 1 April 1993 when the Office of the Exchange Fund and the Office of the Commissioner of Banking merged. The organisation reports directly to the Financial Secretary.
The exchange fund was established and managed originally by the Currency Ordinance in 1935, now named the Exchange Fund Ordinance. Under the Ordinance, the HKMA’s primary objective is to ensure the stability of the Hong Kong currency, and the banking system. It is also responsible for promoting the efficiency, integrity and development of the financial system.
The HKMA issues banknotes only in the denomination of ten Hong Kong dollars. The role of issuing other banknotes is delegated to the note-issuing banks in the territory, namely The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, Standard Chartered Bank and Bank of China.
Since 1995, the HKMA has entered into a stability pact with central banks in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia to engage in repurchase agreements, which provide liquidity on a two-way basis.
The Central Moneymarkets Unit (CMU), established in the 1990, provides computerised clearing and settlement facilities for Exchange Fund Bills and Notes. It extended the service to other Hong Kong dollar debt securities in late 1993. A seamless interface allow the co-existence of the CMU and the newly launched real-time gross settlement (RTGS) inter-bank payment system. This enables end-of-day delivery versus payment (DVP) services as opposed to Non-DVP.
In 2018, HKMA developed the infrastructure for the Faster Payment System and launched it in September of that year.
Banking stability mainly depends on the banking system and supervision. A three-tier banking system (銀行三級發牌制度) was implemented in the 1980s. Institutions are also managed differently depending on whether they are categorised as licensed banks, restricted license banks or deposit-taking institutions. Overseas banks may also establish local representative offices in Hong Kong.
In 2019, the HKMA began issuing the first batch of virtual bank licenses in Hong Kong; these banks were not required to have physical branches in the city.
Currency board system
It is included the Linked Exchange Rate System and noticeable features such as the Aggregate Balance, Certificates of Indebtedness and coins issued and the Outstanding Exchange Fund Bills and Notes.
The Interest Rate Adjustment Mechanism is an automatic system that maintains the stability of the Hong Kong dollar exchange rate. Lately the HKMA has been disclosing the forecast change in the Aggregate Balance attributes to increase the transparency of the Currency Board operation.
In 1995, Nobel Prize–winning economist Milton Friedman mistakenly predicted the Hong Kong dollar’s demise within two years of the 1997 handover. He also predicted the absorption of the territory’s financial reserves of US$43 billion (HK$335.4 billion) by Beijing, which would not be able to bear the subrogation of Hong Kong’s monetary policy to the United States.
As with any monetary system not based on a fiat money (which includes currency boards, currency unions and the traditional gold standard) it is impossible to use monetary policy to stabilise the business cycle: this means that any macroeconomic adjustment has to be achieved by changes in the prices of assets and labour. In Hong Kong, this is made easier by two factors: the first is the openness of the economy, with an aggregate demand heavily dependent on international trading partners; this reduces the risk of classic liquidity traps. The second factor is the scarce political clout of the trade unions, which makes it easier to trim the nominal salaries during recessionary times. Moreover, the high saving rates and the moral stigma attached to bankruptcy have kept relatively low the level of defaults on mortgages even during the deep recessions after the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the SARS epidemic in 2002/2003.