In order to fully develop your business in Hong Kong, you cannot do without a corporate bank account or, at the very least, a payment system. At the same time, the metropolis has long been famous for financial institutions that combine a high level of service with reliable guarantees of protection of clients’ assets. Hong Kong has one of the highest concentrations of banks per square meter and per capita on the planet.

 

However, with all the abundance of banking institutions in Hong Kong, opening an account is not easy. Experience and knowledge of the nuances, including the mentality of the Chinese, help to solve the problem. If you need to open an account in Hong Kong, you’ll benefit from the services of Lawyers Association Lawrange. However, first we want to tell you about the special features of Hong Kong banks in our overview.

 

 

Features of the banking system

 

More than two hundred banks operate in Hong Kong, including more than seventy of the hundred largest banking networks. All of the world’s TOP-20 banks have a presence in the city. For entrepreneurs, local banks are attractive because they provide prospects for transactions with counterparties throughout Southeast Asia, particularly in China. A Hong Kong company + a corporate account at a bank in Hong Kong is an excellent foundation for cooperation with partners or clients from China.

 

Note! Over the past few years, foreign clients have had difficulty opening accounts with banks in Hong Kong. This is due to Hong Kong joining the global de-offshorization process using the FATF recommendations as a guideline. In order to open an account, one must a) undergo a “due diligence” check by the bank, b) pay a personal visit to the banking institution and c) have the patience to wait for the bank representatives to make a decision (which can take weeks).

 

 

Opening an account in Hong Kong: advantages

 

For foreigners, Hong Kong is easier to understand than China. Communication with local bankers is often possible in English. In particular, English-speaking staff are almost 100% guaranteed to be present at international banks.

 

Among the advantages of Hong Kong as a place to open a bank account for a company:

  • Beneficial isolated status as a special administrative region of China (formerly a city-state).
  • Opportunity to provide a convenient platform to tap into China’s vast market.
  • Combination of modern service standards with relatively low cost of services.
  • Developed internet banking, introduction of other technological innovations, enabling accounts to be managed remotely from abroad.
  • The prestige of the banking jurisdiction – prospects for strengthening and raising its status in the eyes of counterparties.

 

 

What accounts do Hong Kong banks open?

 

Banking institutions in Hong Kong offer customers the opportunity to open savings, current and term deposit accounts, foreign currency accounts and so on. The issuing of licenses to banks is governed by special laws and other enactments subject to separate legal regimes.

 

Note! The system of deposit-taking institutions is divided into three levels. The classification takes into account the size and maturity of the deposits and other factors. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) is the regulator for all types of institutions.

 

 

Restricted License Banks

Essentially, these are investment and commercial banks. There are 17 such institutions in Hong Kong, 12 of which are locally incorporated. Their peculiarities are as follows: 1) a relatively narrow range of operations; 2) acceptance of deposits of at least HKD 500,000 (Hong Kong dollars) – the equivalent of about 65,000 euros; 3) time limits on acceptance of deposits – short-term deposits with a predetermined maturity term of 3 months are allowed, etc.

 

 

Licensed Banks

The type of banking institution with the broadest range of services, including deposit-taking and lending, savings, current and other accounts. There are 132 such banks in Hong Kong, of which 31 are locally licensed. Their main peculiarity is that they accept deposits with no restrictions on size or maturity. However, when applying for a corporate account with a licensed bank, there is a minimum capital requirement of HKD 300 million (approximately EUR 380,000), including paid-up share capital and account balance.

 

 

Deposit-taking companies

These financial institutions are mainly owned by or otherwise associated with banks. There are 31 such companies in Hong Kong and they engage in a number of specialized activities, including consumer lending, commercial lending and securities trading. Their peculiarity is accepting deposits of HKD 100,000 (about EUR 13,000) or more with an initial maturity of at least three months.

 

 

What services can be accessed from banks in Hong Kong?

 

The services of Hong Kong banks are comparable to those provided by banking institutions in Europe and the US. In addition to account opening, customers have access to loans, money transfers, investment advice, currency exchange (sometimes for account holders with no fees), direct debit, insurance services and so on.

 

Note! The terms of service and rates vary a lot. Given the large number of banking institutions, making the right choice without adequate experience is not easy. Among other factors, this choice must be weighed against the needs and size of the business. Some banks have low minimum balance requirements as a main selection criterion, others cannot do without professional banking services.

 

Most banks charge account maintenance fees. Fee-free accounts are not common. The cost can range from 50 to 150 HKD (EUR 6.5 to EUR 20) per month, and depends on the type of account and your regular income or average balance. It is sometimes possible to avoid paying a fee by keeping a certain amount of money in an account.

 

Note! Some account types may require a minimum deposit. This may also depend on the bank you choose. Some savings accounts ask for as little as HKD 10 (a little over EUR 1) as an initial deposit, while others may require HKD 200,000 (around EUR 25,000). Most banks also charge for other services, such as closing an account or keeping an inactive account.

 

 

What documents are required to open an account?

 

Bankers request a certificate of incorporation (parent company memorandum of association for branches). In addition, the list of documentation includes:

  1. application forms (application according to the template proposed by the bank);
  2. minimum documents for participants (passports, CV, income information, proof of residence);
  3. statements from other banks about open accounts (best if already an account with an Asian bank is opened);
  4. optionally, a letter of recommendation from the bank;
  5. information about the business:

– a description of the structure of the business;

– certificate of Good Standing (CGS) if the company has been operating for less than one year;

– business plan;

– evidence of the reality of the business – contracts, company website, supplier invoices and customer payments);

– annual financial report;

– information on counterparties in the region;

– credit history of the company;

– purpose of opening a corporate account.

 

Note! Documentation must be translated into English or Chinese and notarised. When opening an account, in most cases the beneficiary will need to visit the bank in person to speak to staff.

 

 

The best banks in Hong Kong to open accounts

 

Even if you are familiar with Hong Kong’s banking system, choosing the right institution to apply for an account is difficult. It is even more difficult to get a positive decision on your application from your chosen bank. To ensure the best possible chance of success you can get help from the Lawrange representatives. Firstly, we recommend banks that are willing to cooperate. Secondly, we help you draw up documentation without errors and know how to dialogue with Hong Kong bankers in the right tone.

 

To start with, here are what we think are the best banks to open business accounts in 2022.

 

 

HSBC

Ranked among the most important banking networks in the region and among the largest on the planet – serving more than forty-five million customers in 70 countries. It is headquartered in London. This bank is one of the top three banks with the right to issue the Hong Kong dollar (HKD). This financial institution offers the largest range of services for corporates in Hong Kong.

 

The minimum deposit amount must be HKD 10,000. Corporate account maintenance fee is HKD 150 per month for average balances up to HKD 1 million. If your balance exceeds HKD 1 million, there is no fee. Up to six payments per month are free of charge. If this limit is exceeded, the fee for incoming payments in Hong Kong is HKD 15, from abroad is HKD 65.

 

 

OCBC Wing Hang Bank

Ranked among the TOP-50 best banking institutions in the world by Global Finance. It has been in business since 1937. Licensed in Hong Kong in 1960. It has representative offices in eighteen countries.

 

It offers corporate clients universal business accounts that include a range of deposit services, payment solutions, wealth management tools, as well as commercial and investment services. Transactions can be made in G10 and Asian currencies (particularly the Chinese yuan). Customers receive free access to online and mobile banking, as well as corporate email or SMS alerts to help them stay up-to-date on the company’s financial situation.

 

 

Standard Chartered Bank

It is in a development phase, with a presence in sixty countries around the world. And the history of this banking institution goes back to the middle of the 19th century. The main office is located in Hong Kong itself. There are also two business banking centers, where corporate accounts are opened. Like HSBC, the bank is authorized to issue Hong Kong Dollars (HKD).

 

To open an account, the equivalent of EUR 1,000 must be deposited. An amount equivalent to at least EUR 10,000 must then be retained in the balance. The requirement to keep the account active is mandatory. The bank reserves the right to close inactive accounts. The fee for an incoming money transfer is EUR 6 and EUR 22 for an outgoing money transfer.

 

 

DBS Bank

One of the TOP banks in Southeast Asia. Headquartered in Singapore, representative offices in eighteen countries. Entrepreneurs can apply for an account with this bank online. However, a visit to the bank branch in Hong Kong will be required for the direct processing of the documentation.

 

All founders and directors must be present at the meeting with the bankers. Further, it is important to consider the availability of financial monitoring: for transactions that go through the bank, there must be documentary evidence. A transaction of the equivalent of 50,000 without documented justification may result in the account being blocked and a notification sent to the regulatory authorities.

 

The initial fee to open an account is the equivalent of EUR 2,300. A balance of EUR 1,000 must then be retained. A fee of 1.5% is payable for cash deposits in foreign currencies. Monthly account maintenance costs EUR 40 plus a EUR 9 monthly fee for the client bank programme. Fee for transfers up to 5000 euros is 25 euros, from 5000 to 25 000 euros 30 euros.

 

Note! The bank’s rates may change at the time of reading this article. You can get the exact details by going directly to the bank’s website.

 

 

Citibank

Another prestigious and reliable bank that we recommend. This institution provides a wide range of banking products and services, including investment and corporate banking, wealth management and transaction services. Corporate account fees depend on the size of the monthly balance.

 

 

Payment systems – an alternative to banks

 

If you suddenly have trouble opening an account with a bank in Hong Kong, there is an alternative route available – opening an account with a payment system. There are a large number of such high-tech platforms operating in Hong Kong. For start-ups, this is a good option for solving the issue of accepting and sending payments in the course of business activities.

 

Among the payment systems in Hong Kong in which a foreign entrepreneur can open an account are NEAT, STATRYS, Wise, Currenxie and so on. The main advantage of opening an account with these institutions is that there is no need for a personal visit. The documentation can be done online. As a rule, the procedure for opening a business bank account on fintech platforms takes no more than 2 weeks.

 

 

Conclusions

 

As Hong Kong banks strictly adhere to customer vetting regulations, opening an account in Hong Kong is now a high level of difficulty. However, with knowledge of the intricacies of the procedure, it is possible to achieve the desired result.

 

The experts of the Lawyers Association Lawrange recommend the following steps for this: 1) consult with us and choose the bank or banks where the documents will be submitted; 2) personally go to Hong Kong and negotiate with the bankers with the support of our representative. In case of several refusals, you can use the alternative option of opening an account with a payment system.

 

 

 

 

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