Following Know Your Customer’s coverage expansion of live connections to company registries in 2022, we introduced a registry spotlight series. In each article, we look closely at one of the different jurisdictions available through our platform and single API.
To view the full list of available articles, click here.
Identifying a company through official government sources and mapping its shareholding structure is one of the most essential and time-consuming steps of any corporate onboarding and know your business (KYB) process.
Retrieving this information directly from the local company registry protects compliance teams from the risk of fraud, as it ensures they will be basing their investigation on the same official information that regulators rely on. However, accessing company registries can be a complex task, involving communications in different languages or various admin steps when signing up for multiple accounts and paying for documents in different currencies.
In the course of this series, we will take a look at various company registries, their history, their offering and how users can access them. To start with, let’s focus on our headquarters city: Hong Kong.
What’s the history of the HK CR?
The Hong Kong Companies Registry (“CR”) administers and enforces the provisions of the Companies Ordinance and related ordinances. Like its counterpart in other jurisdictions, the CR registers local and non-Hong Kong companies and filing documents as required under current regulations, de-registers defunct solvent private companies, and enables users to retrieve company information.
If we look at its history, the HK CR embraced digitisation fairly early. In late February 2005, it implemented the Integrated Companies Registry Information System which transformed its core business activities and enabled the delivery of 24×7 electronic search services through the Cyber Search Centre (http://www.icris.cr.gov.hk/). The roll-out of the company search mobile service (www.mobile-cr.gov.hk) in June 2012 marked another milestone in the technological enhancement of the Registry’s services.
How do you access the HK CR?
At present, it is possible to conduct searches on registered companies and access copies of filing documents through both online and offline channels, such as:
- Cyber Search Centre on the internet (available in both English and Chinese)
- Company Search Mobile Service using smartphones or mobile devices
- Onsite search at the Registry’s Public Search Centre at Queensway Government Offices, Hong Kong
What information is available in the HK CR?
According to official data released by CR, the total number of local companies registered under the Companies Ordinance reached 1,391,678 at the end of 2022.
The registry provides information on various entity types. Due to Hong Kong’s role as an important regional financial hub, hundreds of new companies are registered under the HK Registry every day. In fact, in 2022 as many as 104,120 new local companies were added to the Registry.
The table below shows the breakdown per entity type of new companies registered in 2021, the latest year for which data is currently available.
|Entity type||# of new registered entities (2021 Data)|
|Total No. of companies incorporated||110,840|
For these entities, the Hong Kong CR provides digital copies of a variety of official filing documents. The main ones include:
- HK CR Company Particulars
- Certificate of Incorporation
- Certificate of Change of Name
- NSC1 Allotment
- Memorandum & Articles of Association
- Annual Return (FNAR1) or FNNC1 (Incorporation Form)
What are the HK CR fees?
The CR charges various fees, including an annual registration fee to allow users to access the portal and action-based charges for the following items:
- Company Particular Search, per company
- Directors Index Search (Company based, per company)
- Director Particulars Search, per director
- Directors Index Search (Director based) per director
- Disqualification Order Particular Search, per disqualified person
- Obtaining a certificate of a local live company (per copy)
Why does real-time access matter?
Accessing up-to-the-minute information from official sources, instead of relying on traditional databases, is becoming a necessity for regulated organisations worldwide for two main reasons.
On the one hand, financial institutions are under increasing pressure from regulators to conduct in-depth customer due diligence and investigate the corporate structures of their prospective customers. If they don’t, the reputational, financial and personal liability risks could be extremely serious. Primary source data is the most authoritative source of information for any effective AML and KYB strategy as it relies on official and live information, instead of obtaining often out-of-date details from a static database. In this context, getting direct access to official company data and documentation gives compliance teams confidence that they are basing their AML and KYB reviews on the most reliable, accurate, and complete beneficial ownership information.
On the other hand, there is a business opportunity to consider. Newly incorporated companies often need financial services such as a business bank account, financial loans, insurance coverage for the company and staff, or other types of financing. However, these companies can be properly verified only through primary sources such as company registries, because their information will not be present in any of the traditional databases. Hence, if FIs and Fintechs want to target this market segment, real-time company registry access is non-negotiable.
How can Know Your Customer help with registry access?
The Know Your Customer platform and single API help you identify a company through real-time connections to official government sources and access 500+ local company registries across 123 countries, but that’s only the beginning.
On top of official documents, we provide AI-driven automated data extraction and shareholder identification from official records. Our solution enables financial institutions to identify Ultimate Beneficial Owner (UBO) and effectively minimise AML, fraud, and financial crime risks with AML screening from leading watchlists. This integrated approach ensures audit-proof documentary evidence, enabling businesses to meet financial regulators’ most stringent requirements.
With Know Your Customer, compliance teams can quickly and safely build a one-stop digital solution to streamline their entire corporation boarding and know your business (KYB) process, simplifying their access to company registries globally. But leveraging direct connections to company registries is not just a matter of compliance. It also helps both Fintechs and traditional FIs gain a competitive advantage in today’s highly digitised financial services landscape, particularly when targeting recently incorporated organisations.
Explore how our Live Registry Connections and Automated UBO Engine can accelerate your business growth in Hong Kong and globally.
Last updated on March 9th, 2023 at 02:19 pm