Blog: SFC, HKMA Instruct Regulated Firms to Promote Vaccinations – Regulation Asia

The SFC says vaccinations are a critical part of operational risk management. The HKMA is requiring banks to submit a list of unvaccinated staff.

The SFC (Securities and Future Commission) issued a circular urging licensed corporations to review their business continuity plan and consider Covid-19 vaccination as a critical part of operational risk management.

Firms are also asked to identify functions that are critical to their business operations and client interests and to encourage staff performing such critical functions to get vaccinated.

Licensed corporations are also advised to consider suitable arrangements for critical staff who have not yet been vaccinated or are unfit for vaccination due to medical conditions to undergo periodic Covid-19 testing.

The circular followed a Friday (28 May) statement saying that senior bankers travelling to and from Hong Kong will be exempt from having to quarantine provided they are fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the HKMA (Hong Kong Monetary Authority) has said in a circular that it has written to banks asking them to introduce measures to encourage all staff to get vaccinated, particularly those in public or client-facing positions or providing critical support functions.

“If our vaccination rate continues to lag behind other major international financial hubs … this could even impact on our competitiveness as an international financial centre,” the HKMA said. “This is a real and looming threat that Hong Kong cannot afford to overlook.”

Banks are asked to identify and draw up a list of designated staff expected to receive inoculation. The list needs to be submitted to the HKMA within two weeks.

“The list should include, but should not be limited to, those staff involved in branch operation, wealth management and commercial banking, who have frequent face-to-face interactions with customers, as well as those responsible for critical IT, data centre, treasury and settlement operations.”

Staff included in the list should undergo the first Covid-19 test by 30 June 2021 if they have not yet taken the first dose of vaccine by then.

The HKMA has itself been providing employees two extra days of leave to incentivise vaccinations, and working with the banking sector to encourage bank staff to get vaccinated, given that banks are classified as essential service providers.

Staff who have not yet been vaccinated or are unfit for vaccination due to medical conditions should be undergoing regular Covid-19 tests as a necessary measure for risk management, the HKMA said.

HSBC, BOCHK, Standard Chartered and Hang Seng Bank are among those that have since announced they are providing two days off to vaccinated employees. Some local businesses are offering cash credits, lottery draws and free stocks as vaccine incentives, Bloomberg reports.

HKEX (Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing) has likewise announced it is offering vaccinated staff two additional days of annual leave, in recognition of their commitment to community health.

“Vaccination is the only way to beat this global pandemic.,” said HKEX Chief Executive Officer Nicolas Aguzin. “We must continue to do our part to help our city and the global financial community to get back to physical connectivity.”

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