It will take about three years to turn Hong Kong into a market without physical share certificates, according to Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing. Confirming a South China Morning Post report, HKEx yesterday announced a consultation paper on moving to a scripless market to increase settlement efficiency, avoid fake certificate problems and align with international trends. Chief executive Paul Chow Man-yiu said the exchange would spend six months on the consultation and study of the comments received, followed by 12 to 18 months to enact changes to the law and establish computer systems. A further six to 12 months would be required to encourage all investors to put their shares into the Central Clearing and Settlement System (CCASS) for conversion into electronic records. 'The scripless market has many advantages and we believe most investors would like to hand in their certificates,' Mr Chow said. Hong Kong now has about 30 million share certificates in circulation, but only about six million are deposited with the CCASS. 'The exchange will not force investors to give up their existing physical certificates even after the CCASS adopts a scripless model. Investors can always keep their shares at home or they could ask the CCASS to reissue the shares which have been converted,' Mr Chow said. After registering their shares, investors can choose to leave their electronic record within the system, or they can choose to register their share record with a company-approved registrar. Those who want physical certificates can also register with a listed company-appointed registrar.