The 20 Best Banks in Hong Kong

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The 20 Best Banks in Hong Kong [Pour nous les Frenchies] 2020

 

What is the most important part of opening a new business - in Hong Kong or elsewhere?

Open a bank account.

Having trouble opening a corporate bank account in Hong Kong? Or other parts of the world?

You're not alone.

I'm hearing it more and more from everyone. More and more rejection letters.

Have you followed the trends over the years? Then you've seen a considerable hardening in the opening of new business accounts. Hong Kong is a major financial centre, but in the last two years it has become so much harder to open an account.

As I have worked with so many clients and shared their headaches about opening a bank account. I explain everything in detail in the article.

It's a lot harder than "back then"!

I spent two days visiting as many banks as I could in Hong Kong. There are so many banks in Hong Kong! I estimate that there are over 50, depending on your criteria for a bank - commercial or retail and even investment. I was able to cover about 20 of them.

 

TOP 20 BANKS IN HONG KONG

 

 

Alternative: Payments offshore

 

As banking in Hong Kong is virtually impossible for non-HKID cardholders, we have begun to see more and more business owners using cross-border payments, see our full guide and comparison.

A reader, Ben, sent me this amazing email and I want to share it with all of you:

"Hi,

We spoke online some time ago about a bank account in Hong Kong, we also met at the Canton Fair where we talked about the requirements and difficulties of a Hong Kong bank account.

The last time I went to Hong Kong, I had some difficulties this time, I have a one month rental contract for my residence in Bangkok (don't laugh!!!), and I will explain that I am developing my business in Asia etc. and that I don't have any invoices for services etc.

I guess my chances are pretty slim, so I decided to hit a few banks while I'm at it. This led me to create a spreadsheet with a lot of useful information that I think will be useful for your listeners/visitors to the site. I used your station as a base and worked on it.

It includes which banks / phone numbers / branches, etc. So, if someone is in a similar situation to mine (hopefully not very likely), they can arrange several interviews like I did.

PS: Do you have any advice on how to manage the interview at the bank? From our last conversation, I understand that I have to say that I'm starting operations in Hong Kong / Asia, that I intend to expand the business there, hence the bank account? BEN "

Updated reader June 2019

Even harder, even more difficult, to get a bank in Hong Kong. A reader, let's say "Marc" sent us this report:

"We're going around the banks. Some feedback as below:

Dah sing bank: no to the passport applicant

Ocbc wing hang: we do not accept online merchants

Bea: we do not accept TT payments that do not have full details of the transaction (reason: local banking compliance regulations)

DBS: under review, no idea of opening an account at this time, seems that it will be expensive if they are willing to open an account.

HSBC: closure of our current account, banking with them since 2009. Secretary told us to try to open an account again (we called and asked why they didn't want to say anything, asked to write: closing team for the reason)

Standard mapped: no answer yet

Boc: need a physical office

Citibank: need for a physical office

UOB: need one million HKD and say they don't really serve SMEs

Wing lung: no response at all

Hang Seng: documents sent by email, have not yet received a response

Let us know if you get lucky with the bank. It seems you enter banks physically? I hear banks in Hong Kong don't appreciate being questioned directly.

A Reader in Distress"

And he came back to us towards the end of November and shared this with us:

"Good day!

Some updates for your readers.

The last time we spoke, we met with DRS and were told that it would take three to four weeks to get a list that long.

The banker HSBC has declared the Standard chartered has closed a lot of accounts recently. So the long waiting time to pass the approval, DBS setup fee is HKD10000 installation fee.

And I believe the monthly account fee is HKD 150 for online banking.

On another note, I met with a member of the RM from the OCBC wing hang branch in the centre, they tried to sell me insurance products and I asked if it would make it easier to open my business account, but still subject to approval. Same info I got from Public Bank HK, they wanted to discuss some products with me. I wonder if you have any comments on that? Is it really easier to open a business account with them if we buy their insurance products? We did not go through the process of opening an account with ocbc, but we were just wondering if any information would be useful to your readers looking to open a business account in Hong Kong.

Other banks that have already told me they would contact me have not contacted me, for example, to quote the bank seng seng. Maybe because they are linked to HSBC.

I managed to open an offshore business account in Singapore for my company HK, but I don't really like offshore accounts as I strongly believe that a company registered in Hong Kong should have a local bank account.

Once I've sorted out my banking business and got more feedback from the banks, I'll probably email the InvestHK and HKMA team about these worries and issues. HK no longer seems like a good place to do business, costs have certainly increased significantly since our incorporation in 2009.

Hong Kong Business Owner in Distress "

Hopefully things will get better for him...

Another update from November 2017

"Hello, thank you for this very informative post - a lot of interesting information and I wish I would have seen it all earlier!

I'm going to Hong Kong on Monday (the first visit in years) and I was expecting to attend a bank account opening meeting with HSBC in Wan Chai. However, after submitting all the requested documents, they are not even willing to meet me and refused the request for a meeting! I registered a company HK Ltd with Startupr.hk a few months ago and I was aware that opening an HK corporate bank account could be difficult - but I thought that if I went to HK in person, with the correct documentation, I could get one somewhere - now I'm not so sure... To give you some general information, I'm from the UK, I'm a UK passport holder but based in Indonesia, so no HK address other than the lease for a virtual office with Jumpstart.hk

My question is this: Since I'm coming to Hong Kong anyway between Monday and Wednesday next week (partly for an Indonesian visa and also to process another visa for China to meet a potential business partner in Shanghai on Wednesday night) do you think it would still be worthwhile for me to get my official documents from Startupr.hk and visit a subsidiary in person? Also, it seems that you have a ton of business experience in Asia and I would like to have the opportunity to have a coffee if you have the time? Maybe there's a chance to collaborate in some way?

PS: If the traditional bank account fails, I have found a new option with Neat Business.hk - so there is a chance that all is not lost yet?

Richard"

Let's go back to the original article.

What I said at the bank when I visited...

I'm sure depending on the day and the customer service representative I spoke to at the bank, I would get different results. For this exercise, here is what I revealed to the bank tellers and customer account managers when I arrived:

  • A new business owner
  • French
  • Passport only, no Hong Kong identity card.
  • The company is new, less than a year old.
  • I'm a white male, mid-30s.
  • Clothing - short sleeve button-down shirt, khaki shorts, shoes
  • Type of business Import Import Export Marketing consulting
  • I only speak English

I've done it to represent most of the clients I work with. Although U.S. citizenship has been an additional negative element in this process. We will dig through these different banks below.

What has been your own experience in applying for bank accounts in Hong Kong? Please note that this is a business account, not a personal account. I believe personal accounts are always easy and straightforward for you to enter Hong Kong, but I have not tried this in today's post.

Now, in no particular order, let's search every bank I've been to:

Updates September 2016

We still receive tons of emails from readers, such as the following:

"Curious to know if it is still possible to get a bank account for a company in HK. We've been trying to do this for a while, but we always get caught. Recently, a few weeks ago, we were about to go out to file applications, but we were told that we needed approval from mainland China to do so. So we ended up not going. What do you think is feasible these days? We are an e-commerce company and we supply and ship clothing from Thailand. But because the banking system is not very good here, we need an entity outside of TH to link with Stripe, Braintree and so on. I am also curious to know if it is possible to bypass the process by buying an existing HK company with a bank account and transfer it to our name. Curious about what is possible these days.

Thank you, Jordan."

We've discussed and updated people in our newsletter (like this one two weeks ago about the HKMA encouraging banks to relax), the Hong Kong government and regulators don't want the banks to be so strict.

But the banks won't open. Some say it's because they'd rather deal only with bigger customers anyway and use that as an excuse, while others say it's really because they want to be very careful to avoid fines from U.S. regulators.

This is the path of

HSBC

HSBC Centres for SMEs are located throughout Hong Kong. I went there with my friend Martin 'cause he doesn't have an HSBC account at the moment. We went to the Jordan branch on Nathan road without an appointment.

As we entered the retail banking premises on the ground floor, the receptionist asked us how to help. She was friendly and when we talked about a business account, she sent us to the SME Centre on the 18th floor.

The secretary greeted us, and then a small business banking representative met us in a conference room in less than five minutes. He asked us to confirm that it was a business account for a Hong Kong public limited company. He also asked us if it was a new business or a business that was more than a year old.

He then gave us a checklist, which I will expand on here:

Opening an account in Hong Kong - Setting up a Limited Liability Company in Hong Kong

* Certified copy of the certificate of incorporation

* CPA / lawyer / banker / notary public in a Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) member country comparable jurisdiction acceptable to HSBC or

* Member of the Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries (HKICS), or

* HSBC Branch Manager

Recommended format : The certifying officer must sign and date the copy of the document (print name below) and clearly indicate his or her position on the copy. The certifier must declare that this is a true copy of the original (or a text with similar effect) and the number of pages to be recorded.

Number of directors required to form a quorum / beneficial owners to be present at the opening of the account.

* A sample of the required documents can be found on the website www.commercia.hsbc.com.hk/1/2/sampledoc_e.

A. Company's reference documents

1. Certificate of Incorporation (CI) and name change (if applicable)

2. Valid Certificate of Business Registration (CRE)

3. Memorandum and Articles of Association (M&A) / Articles of Association and amending resolutions.

4. Final notice of change of Secretary and Director (appointment/termination) (Form D2A/ND2A), return of assignments (Form SC1/NSC1) and/or instrument of transfer, if applicable.

5. (For a newly created company)

5a) Company search report / search for company information within 6 months and

5b) Form of Incorporation (NI1 /NNC1) or (NI1G/NNC1G) / Notification of First Secretary and Director (Form D1) and

5c) Declaration of Administrator / Shareholder / Beneficial Owner (DD), sample available on request, issued within 6 months.

6) For companies incorporated more than one year ago

6a) Company search report / search for company information within 6 months and

6b) Last annual declaration (form AR1/NAR1)

B. Documents required from 2 directors, all signing officers, all beneficial owners and 2 key controllers

- Identity document and proof of nationality

C. Documents required from 2 directors, all signing officers, all beneficial owners and 2 key controllers

C1: Proof of residential address

C2: Proof of permanent address (if different from residential address)

D. Documents required from 2 directors, all signing officers, all beneficial owners, all key controllers and ALL directly appointed members.

D1: Full name, type of identity card, number and date of birth.

E. Documents relating to the Tax Compliance Act for Foreign Accounts (CAIA)

HSBC Declaration Form and/or applicable IRS Form W to establish your FATCA tax status. For sample documents and more information on FATCA, please visit the HSBC website at www.faca.hsbc.com/en/emb/hongkong or the IRS website at www.irs.gov/FATCA.

F. Payments and account opening forms

F1. HKD 10,000 cheque for initial deposit, company search and special company account opening fee, if applicable. (Please refer to the latest commercial tariff - http://www.commercial.hsbc.com.hk/1/2/commercial)

F2. Mandate, Account Opening Form and Signature Cards

G. Additional documents required for special companies

G1. Corporate Shareholders

Organizational chart of the shareholding structure showing the name of the company, the percentage of ownership, the country of incorporation, the country of establishment in each intermediary owner, the business address of each intermediary owner up to the beneficial owners of the company and specifying the issue of bearer shares in the chain of ownership (including the company, all intermediary owners and beneficial owners), certified by a director. Indicate if there are family members, the number of beneficial owners and the percentage of total collective family holdings, if any.

G2. If the beneficial owners of your corporation are trusts

Trust deed, proof of identity and proof of residential address, and proof of trustee's identity.

HSBC Bank Charges

The minimum balance is 50,000 HKD, otherwise 100 HKD/month service charge.

The process was so fast that it surprised me. The SME centre was empty. We went there at 10:30 on a Thursday, so maybe it was a good time to go. Maybe I should come to this branch more often, the TST and Central branches are so overcrowded every time I go there.

Verdict: After 3 appointments HSBC kindly turned us down... This bank is not recommended for new entrepreneurs.

DBS

I went to three different places for this bank. It was a rainy day in Central (i.e. typhoon) and I entered a DBS branch. They were kind enough to serve me right away. I told them about the business bank account, and they immediately told me that they only help personal customers. On my way to the DBS headquarters in "The Center" (a huge business complex), I started walking down the Vouex road. Not having been able to find it after asking a few guards, I told myself that I would find another location later.

The next day, on the Kowloon side, I went to my friend's apartment. They were just as nice and told me to go to the Mira Mall on Nathan Street on the 11th floor for business banking. I didn't have time to go there. I'm going to update this post with news of that location.

The front office customer service representative also gave me the number 2290 8345 to make an appointment for an SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) banking application.

Update : So I returned with a client at the end of October 2015. In their SME centre in Miramall in Kowloon. After about 20 minutes of waiting in the customer service room, they received us.

They told us that the account opening fee is 10,000 $ HKD (approximately 1,250 $ US) and that the annual fee for keeping the account open is 10,000 $ HKD. Totally crazy. My client wasn't willing to pay (I completely understand) and we left.

Here is the account application form we got before we left:

https://www.globalfromasia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/dbs-bank-application-requirements.jpeg

Chong Hing Bank

It was a bank I hadn't heard of before I did this exploration. I found their Jordanian branch (thanks again to Mike the Greek for pointing it out to me!) and went in.

Such a small bank, there were two cashiers and a line of about five people. I walked to the back and there were a couple of bankers on the phone. They seemed to be discussing the stock market with the customers.

After I hung up, I mentioned that I was interested in opening a corporate bank account. Being the only stranger they had seen for some time at the bank, he wondered why I was interested in their bank?

I explained that I wanted to have some bank accounts in my business here in Hong Kong, so if I had a customer who wanted to pay me from either bank account, he could choose to do so. Seriously, what's wrong with applying for bank accounts at multiple banks? I explained that I already had an HSBC bank account, thinking it would be a good thing. I don't know if it was or not.

He asked me more questions about my business. Where are my clients headquartered? What is the basis for the operation of my business? He checked my passport and looked for my visa. He saw that I am a visitor to Hong Kong, and I explained that I am under the work permit of my Chinese company in Shenzhen.

Sounds confusing. He was polite, then asked me to wait while he asked his manager.

I sat down. A look and feel so different from HSBC. They weren't supplying the foreign market here. All in the Chinese language. Computers in the lobby with stock trading platforms ready for customers to log on and trade.

When he came back, I saw that it wasn't going to be positive. After at least 10 minutes of discussion with his manager in the back room, he explained to me that I needed a Hong Kong ID card. I told him that I already had an HSBC HK corporate bank account and that it was not necessary. But he explained to me that this was years ago, and times are much harder now.

But he was nice, that guy. He gave me his business card and told me that if I got an HKID, he would be much more useful to help me open a business account at the Chong Hing Bank.

Bank of China (BANK OF CHINA)

In the city centre, I entered one of the many branches of the Bank of China. Interestingly enough, I have a bank account at the Bank of China - but it's in mainland China - not Hong Kong. It's a completely separate entity and there's no connection between the customer accounts.

So I went into the bank and pulled a number out of the holding machine. Right in front of me, I saw a nice woman who asked me how she could help me today. I explained that I had a business in Hong Kong and wanted to open a corporate bank account. She asked if it was for a limited or unlimited account. I explained that it was a limited company. She was going to sit me down with a customer service representative, but I explained to her that I wasn't ready to apply today. I was gathering the information that I had to bring.

She went to the back of the bank and gave me a piece of paper with a long checklist. I'm gonna type it down here to help you. Looks like most of the other banks.

He also had a brochure containing the details and conditions of the account. The most interesting thing for you is that you have to hold HKD 50,000 to avoid a monthly fee of HKD 120.

I thanked her for her time and said I would come back and apply later. She gave me the customer hotline - 3988 2288 to call ahead and set up an account interview.

Required documents for opening an account Bank of China (Hong Kong) - Limited Company Incorporated in Hong Kong

After making an appointment, please bring the following documents to the designated branch of Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited (the "Bank") to open an account.

A. Company's reference documents

- Certificate of Incorporation and subsequent Certificate of Change of Name, if applicable.

- Valid Business Registration Certificate (BRC)

- Memorandum and Articles of Association (including all current amendments)

- Hong Kong Trade Register Forms

- Certified D2B form (if applicable)

- Certified D2A form (if applicable)

- Certified D4 form (if applicable)

- Certified AR1 form (if applicable)

Proof of business address (if different from head office address)

- Applicable to the "Société par Société de Garantie") Director's certificate

B. Documents of at least two directors (the sole director of the company has only one director), major shareholders (those who can control the exercise of 10% of the voting rights of the company or its parent company) and all authorized signatories

- Identification document

- Proof of former / other names (if applicable)

- Proof of nationality (if a person does not hold a permanent Hong Kong identity card)

- Proof of current residential address (e.g. documents with name and address issued by government authorities within 3 months). Utility bill issued within 3 months or statement issued by financial institutions within 3 months

C. Documents of the company's directors / shareholders (if any)

- Corporate Director

Its Board resolution appointing a representative or a proxy to act on behalf of the director of the company and present at the bank for the opening of the account

The company's reference document (see point A above)

- Main shareholders of the company

Its main shareholders/beneficial owners (individuals must go to the bank to open the account and provide the documents listed in Part B)

Note: In addition to the documents listed above, we may also ask you to provide other information and documents required to open an account, if necessary.

BANGKOK BANK

This one was going to be funny! Seeing a Thai bank in Hong Kong intrigued me and I passed this branch several times during my years of traveling in Hong Kong. Today, it was the "all-you-can-eat buffet" of bank visits, so I went inside.

An exotic and expensive interior. Resembling a temple, with high ceilings and brass metal trim and a green tint. I went to a cashier and explained to him that I was looking to open a corporate account for my Hong Kong business. She told me she needed a referral, but I can wait for the manager.

She showed me a corner office at the front right of the bank and I approached it. The manager was a professional woman and was dealing with a client. My knowledge of Cantonese is not very good, but they were having a rather pleasant conversation. I was wondering if she was a big customer of the bank, trying to figure out how bankers could decide who to treat well and who to pass by.

After about ten minutes, their conversation was over and she invited me to sit at her desk. I explained that I was a new company in Hong Kong and wanted to open a bank account. She said to me:

"You need a reference. »

So that's it, I said there's no other way. She told me she didn't, that she needed a reference. She was polite about it, but I was still surprised that they turned me down flatly without asking me about me and my company.

So it was a waste of about 15 minutes. It's time to go to the next bank.

Hong Kong Public Bank

Next to Bank of Bangkok is a bank called "Public Bank Hong Kong" (quite generic, isn't it?). When I arrived, there was a customer service representative available at the office on the right and he asked me how he could help.

I explained that I was looking to open a business account for my company in Hong Kong.

He mentioned me immediately:

Need a reference.

I asked if there was no other solution, he said no. He apologized and wished me luck. That was fast!

VSI

When I joined ICBC, I went to the second floor of their business branch - it was at TST in Kowloon District. While waiting at the cash desk, they directed me to an office for customer service.

It was a nice woman who took me in and invited me to sit down right away. I explained that I wanted to open a corporate bank account.

She asked me if I knew anyone at the bank who had an account.

I needed a reference. But she told me she knew someone who had one there and that she'd introduce me to the bank.

For the sake of this article and assuming I was a foreigner visiting Hong Kong to do business for the first time, I said, no, I didn't have anyone I knew there who had an ICBC bank account. She apologized and said I must know someone who had a bank account there for at least a year (I think it was a year).

Knowing that I couldn't find another way, I asked him if I could at least get a bank account options brochure or other checklists. She told me they didn't have that and to check the website.

Thanking me for my time, she said goodbye. I walked downstairs.

On the way to the MMP, I saw huge billboards advertising ICBC. As a marketer, I wondered what the cost of that was, and then turning away potential customers when they walked through the door.

China Construction Bank (CCB)

Here's another bank that is more present in mainland China, and has a separate banking entity here in Hong Kong. I walked into one of the many I saw and asked questions about opening a business account. The first time I went there, they gave me a phone number to call, but in the course of my day, I came across so many that I went to others.

This branch was pretty nice, they took out a piece of paper with a list of all their branches. The teller then highlighted three of the bank branches where you could request and get customer service for your business bank account.

Here are the 3 places where you can apply for a business bank account. I'm going to have to stop at one of them and update this post.

Wanchai Hennessy Road

Unit C, 20th floor, China Overseas building, 139 Hennessy Road

Wan Chai, Hong Kong

3918 6708

Kowloon Bay CCB Centre

SME Centre

Ground floor,

Kwun Tong, Hong Kong

3718 3422

Sheung Shui

SME Centre

Units 1103A-06, 11th Floor, Landmark North

39 Lung Sum Avenue

3918 6722

Sheung Shui, New Territories

Citibank

At first, I wasn't even going to bother going to Citibank. I had just learned that since they are an American bank, they will no longer help Americans to open bank accounts in Hong Kong and will tell you to apply to Citibank USA.

For God's sake, let's go.

A nice security guard greeted me at the Jordan branch on Nathan Road. He directed me to the bank's small business division and there were 3 cashiers all ready and willing to talk. I picked one of them. She was kind and immediately pulled out a checklist of what I had to provide. To get a business bank account with them, as I typed it down below :

  • Information on the Director(s)
  • HKID or Administrator Passport
  • Residential evidence from principals
  • Company Information :
  • Valid Business Registration Certificate (BRC)
  • Certificate of Incorporation (CI)
  • Memorandum and Articles of Association (with client signature)
  • Proof of business address
  • Additional documents for BVI (certificate of ownership)
  • Mines of the meeting / Board resolution
  • Proof of business operation - examples - sales invoice, purchase order, sales contract, rental agreement (for retail store), etc.
  • Citibank (CitiBusiness) account opening form and services
  • If U.S. - W-8BEN or W-9 (related to U.S. tax)

I also explained that I was an American and if that could be a problem. She didn't seem to give me the impression that it could be a problem, and she just gave me the bottom of the checklist for the American part of the requirements.

The event lasted only ten minutes or less. But then again, who knows how hard it would be to be accepted after applying. Still, it was nice to know that I could just apply, and not have to face that long inquisition about who I am, or demand that I "know people".

Update, November 2015 One reader, Doug, has shared his electronic correspondence with Citibank :

I contacted Citi via their online form, here is the answer I received.

"Dear Mr. Doug,

Thank you for your interest in opening an account in Hong Kong.

You will find enclosed the basic documents required to open an account and the addresses of the five branches of Citibank Citibusiness.

Please bring all original copies with you when you visit our branch, as there is no pre-approval arrangement prior to your arrival.

Please note that both the director and the shareholder (more than 10 %)/authorized signatory must be present in Hong Kong to open an account.

For your information, the company must be registered in Hong Kong and have an operational office in Hong Kong.

Please note that any account opening will be subject to final approval by the bank.

Once again, thank you for choosing Citibank. »

https://www.globalfromasia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/citibank-application-requirements.jpeg

Chiyu Bank

It was another small bank that I had noticed in the past while walking around the city but had never paid attention to. The banner logo is pinkish/purple and will remain forever in my memory.

As I entered a branch on (or near) Temple Street, the security guard opened the door with a smile on his face. He directed me to a row of offices for new account applications. I may have been one of the first strangers to enter the bank for some time, they were all a little shy to serve me. Finally, a bank teller invited me to sit at her desk.

She asked me how she could help me. I explained that I had opened a new business and needed a bank account. She asked me a few more questions, one of which was my nationality.

I said I was American.

After collecting the information, she then went to talk to her manager.

A few minutes later, she sat down and apologized. The bank cannot accept new applications for bank accounts from U.S. citizens. She explained that there is a lot of paperwork and regulations for Americans now and that they are not able to help them.

I thanked her for her time and the guard opened the door for me as I left the bank. Again, with a smile.

I guess now I know what it's like to be discriminated against. I've been told that you can't do anything based on your nationality.

Next bank...

Dah Sing Bank

It's a local bank whose logo has marked me over the years. I went to a branch across the street from my office on Nathan Road in Kowloon. It was a small corner branch with two floors. The cashier on the first floor told me I had to go upstairs for investment banking.

There were only cashiers on the second floor, behind glass. I waited in line for my turn and went to my assigned counter. She was shy to speak English to me and was a little blushing. She leaned over to the cashier next to her and they switched her customer with me. A little glance at the customers and so I talked to the cashier now.

He asked me a series of questions, who I am, where is my registered business, what is my identity, do I have HKID. After a while, he went in the back to give me more information.

After he came back, he explained to me that I needed a 3-year-old client. That is, a client who has a current account with them for three consecutive years. I told him I might be able to find someone. I asked for his business card, but he didn't have one and gave me the branch vice-president instead.

I complimented his English skills and left the branch.

OCBC Wing Hang Bank

Down the street on Nanthan Road, I saw the OCBC Wing Hang Bank. Their logo is bright red and has always caught my attention. It's time to take a look around and see what's going on there.

Waiting for the cashiers at the back of the hall, my turn was close. The cashier called the account executive out front and Kelly came and got me.

I sat at his desk. She asked me if I had any other banks, and I explained that I only had HSBC. Then she asked me why I would want other banks in Hong Kong. I explained that I wanted to have some options for different clients.

She pulled out the form and the marketing brochure, and here's the summary.

Need a minimum of 50.000 HKD to avoid bank charges

Otherwise 80 hkd/month

Checklist :

  • Certificate of Business Registration (CRE)
  • Certificate of Incorporation (CI)
  • Proof of residence address of all directors and shareholders holding more than 10 % of the shares, 3 months
  • Signature of bank signatories
  • Completed account form
  • Certified copy of the resolutions
  • Memorandum and Articles of Association

It seems to me that I could have made a request at that time, but I said I had to gather all the information and come back.

Wing Lung Bank (member of Chinese commercial banks)

https://www.globalfromasia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/wing-luk-china-merchants-bank-hong-kong.jpeg

Downtown I swung to Wing Lung Bank. It merged with China Merchants Bank (CMB) a few years ago, if I remember correctly. Before, it didn't have the CMB logo. I've seen the updated logo throughout the branch network, so the merger is recent. It was a massive branch, with escalators that took all visitors to the second floor. I waited at the cashier's desk and then they directed me to customer service.

I saw two available agents and asked if they could help me. One of them volunteered and asked me to sit down.

He was a nice guy who gave me the checklist and the bank account brochure. Here's the information he provided:

The following documents for the purpose of opening an account must be certified true copies by the Directors, the CPA and counsel.

1. Copy of the Certificate of Incorporation (CI)

2. Copy of the company registration certificate (CRE)

3. Copy of the Memorandum and Articles of Association and of the amendment resolutions

4.

A- (For newly created companies)

- Copy of the Notification of the First Secretary and Director (Form D1) / Form of Incorporation (Limited Company) (Form NC1)

- Return of Awards (Form SC1) and/or Transfer Instrument (if applicable)

B- (for a company incorporated for more than one year)

- Copy of the last annual declaration (Form AR1)

- Copy of the Notification of Change of Secretary and Director (Appointment / Termination) (Form D2A) / Return of Awards (Form SC1) and/or instrument of transfer (if applicable)

5. For Directors / Authorized Signatories / Shareholders holding 10 % or more shares (but not corporate shareholders), please provide the following documents

- Identification document

- Residential information (within 3 months)

6. For directors/authorized signatories or shareholders who are local legal entities/BVI, please consult our staff for the required documents.

Here's the big news! So I said I was interested in applying quickly. I was expecting it to be good news, but he told me there was a backlog. It would take 3 months before the bank could consider my application. He explained to me that once I submitted my application, it would be put in the queue now and that the backlog was at least three months.

Goddamn it, three months! I guess if it's just a secondary bank account or if I have no other choice, I'll apply. This is unbelievable.

He gave me his ID card and said he could help me if I had any questions.

Fubon Bank

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Some friends recommended that I try this bank. When I went to Sheung Wan branch, I wanted to see what was going on there. I couldn't find an area for business banking, so I contacted the investment division. A professional invited me to sit down and discuss my situation. I explained that I wanted a business bank account. Again, I was asked about my company, whether it was a local HK company, a limited liability company, and other things.

He wasn't an investment banker, but he had a good understanding of what I was asking. I do not know if I could have applied right away, but I told him I was gathering information today and I would be back. He went to the back to get me the checklist and the brochure. Here are the highlights:

5000 HKD min, otherwise 50 HKD/month costs

The ATM card depends on the number of signatories on the bank, need an annual fee of 50HKD

Presentation :

  • Online Banking - yes
  • Memorandum and Articles of Association (and any amending resolutions). As a company incorporated on or after March 3, 2014, only the articles of association (and any amendment resolution) are required.
  • Copy of Certificate of Incorporation and Certificate of Change of Name (if applicable)
  • Copy of company registration certificate
  • Copy of the form of incorporation (Form NNC1 or NNC1G) (or latest annual report (Form NAR1)) plus any change of secretary and director (Form ND2A or ND2B), report of grant (Form NSC1), transfer deed detailing the details of current directors and principal shareholders.
  • Company search (as an alternative to document item 4 above)
  • Copy of Hong Kong identity card or entry/exit permit for travel to and from Hong Kong and Macao. Or the passports of a minimum of 2 directors, including the managing director (unless the company has a single directory, or more than 2 directors are required to form a quorum), all authorised signatories, all major shareholders and all ultimate beneficial owners.
  • Proof of residential address. Such as bank statements and utility bills (issued within the last 3 months)
  • Details of the ownership structure and control of the business, such as an ownership table.

If the directors or shareholders are legal entities, documents 1 to 5 must also be provided for these companies.

If the directors are legal entities, a copy of the resolution of the board of directors of the corporation that decides to appoint authorized representatives to deal with the banking business of other corporations.

Important Note :

Copies of all documents submitted must be certified true copies by an appropriate certifier. If the original documents are not in English or Chinese, an English translation must be provided.

In addition to the documents listed above, we may also ask you to provide more details about opening an account and other documents if necessary.

The bank reserves the right to refuse any request to open an account without giving any reason.

Remarks :

A copy of the passport must be provided if the person does not hold a permanent Hong Kong identity card (i.e. a letter "A" will appear on a permanent Hong Kong identity card).

A copy of the enhanced ballot must be provided if the person has changed their name on the Hong Kong identity card (i.e. a letter "N" will appear on a Hong Kong identity card).

If the individual is a Taiwanese person, a copy of the national identity card of the Republic of China must be provided.

Definition of the appropriate certifier :

- A soldier, accountant, notary public, auditor, tax consultant or member of the judiciary of an equivalent jurisdiction.

- An officer of a regulated financial institution incorporated or operating from an equivalent jurisdiction.

- Member of the Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries (HKICS)

- An officer of the Fubon Bank.

- An official of an embassy, consulate or high commission in the issuing country issues a document attesting to identity.

- A Justice of the Peace

Instead of providing copies of documents certified by an appropriate certifier, you may also present the original documents at one of our branches for certification by a bank officer.

In the event of any discrepancy between the English and Chinese versions of this document, the English version shall prevail.

Updated: October 2015. I went back to the bank with another client. They saw that the business had opened just a week ago and didn't like it.

They took copies of all the documents we had and said they would call us. They seemed to want to discuss it among themselves before authorizing the opening of the account.

Shanghai Commercial Bank

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Another local bank that I've come across a ton of times in Kowloon and never paid attention to. As I entered the branch, the guard was super nice, he opened the door with a big smile. On the left, there was a corner where customers could trade stocks. About six terminals with tickers coming through, the room was full. Discuss and socialize, while trading stocks and reading the newspaper. It was like a mix between a coffee shop and a casino.

Anyway.

I walked to a desk on the right that was in the investment division. The man was nice and took me to an office at the back of the branch and asked me to wait. Another customer service representative arrived at the office. He asked me some questions about my business and why I was choosing his bank.

I explained that a friend had recommended the bank to me. He wanted to know who, and I gave him the name of the company and the name of the person. That was very helpful. He was much nicer to me, it seems, after he came back from the audit of the company I had mentioned to him.

I could probably have applied then, so I had to explain that I wasn't ready to apply now and that I wanted more information. He gave me a brochure. For the checklist he wrote on a sticky note:

IC

BRC

M&A

Here's the account information:

  • Minimum monthly requirement: 5,000 HKD
  • Otherwise 60 HKD/month charge
  • Has online banking
  • Has an ATM card

I felt pretty good about this bank and I will apply for it once I have all my information ready.

Updated: October 2015. I came here with a client. They kept wondering if the account holder would do business locally in Hong Kong. They said they were focusing on local business, not foreign business.

He took all the documents and said he'd send us an e-mail.

NCB Bank

This bank is a member of the Bank of China Group (BOCHK). What does that mean? I'm not too sure either, but when I came in, the cashier gave me exactly the same checklist and brochure as the Bank of China. Even at the bottom of the pages of the checklist (in the footer) was the Bank of China's signature text.

The fees and everything else was exactly the same.

The banker asked me why I wanted to apply. I told him that I already had HSBC, but that I was looking for a second bank account to offer my customers different banking options to pay me. She seemed confused about why I would want another bank account if I already had an HSBC account. She didn't say it, but I got the impression she was saying that I should be happy to have an HSBC account and not have to apply.

I thanked her for her time and information and left the bank.

Svenska Handelsbanken AB

It is a Swedish bank operating in Hong Kong. I didn't go to their branch, but I made a phone call.

The contact my friend gave me was away for the day, and they took my name and number to call me back.

In less than 20 minutes, they called me back (great!) and asked me a few questions about what I was looking for.

After responding (according to the criteria in this guide), she said that they could not help me. This is a branch for companies with accounts in Sweden, Norway, Finland and other Scandinavian countries.

She gave me a contact with an agency that could potentially help me introduce me to the right banks in Hong Kong, and sent me a follow-up email.

Nice, but as they say, no cigar!

Bank of America (HK)

After a lot of comments on this article, as well as on our new FATCA infographics problems, I had some American CPAs tell me to go to an American bank in Hong Kong, especially Bank of America.

They only do commercial banking here, which could work for us in the small business department. I called their contact in HK at 2847 6111 and asked for commercial banking. I was transferred immediately - no waiting time!

The woman was nice but told me they weren't doing new accounts in Hong Kong. That I need a business account in the US. I told her that I don't have a business account in USA for this HK limited, but I have a personal account in USA. She said it had to be a business account. She said it was a recommendation, having an account in another country where Bank of America is located.

It seems that in 2010 they had a branch here, but when the China Construction case came up, they transferred everything.

So a dead end.

The banks I have yet to visit

I wanted to put this guide online as soon as possible. It took me two full days to gather the banks I've already covered above, much more time than I thought. Over time, I will visit these banks below and gather more details and information.

In addition to adding more information about the banks below, I will also try to update the information for the banks above. Nevertheless, just a brief warning. I am making this guide to help you - but please do your own homework and do your own due diligence before applying!

ICICI Bank

I have no idea how the name of this bank is pronounced, fortunately it is only an article and not a podcast. I'll ask them when I meet them!

BEA (Bank of East Asia)

Friends told me it was hard to get it. And if you are approved, the minimum balance required is quite high.

Updated on November 17, 2015 : So I finally made it to the BEA! I'm exhausted by all these banks, so I took the time to find some energy to visit a new one!

I met one from the Kowloon side. It was rather quiet (as opposed to the usual madness). Only 5 or 6 customers are queuing instead of the saturation in most banks here these days.

They kept me waiting in the business banking section, and there was only one person in line in front of me. After about 10 minutes, the banker invited me into his office. I explained that I wanted a business bank account, he asked me if it was for a Hong Kong limited liability company, I said yes. He printed out a few pages for me. I'll type them here:

BEA (Bank of East Asia) documents required to open a business account

Limited company, Incorporated in Hong Kong

1. Valid business registration certificate

2. Certificate of Incorporation

3. Constitution and Articles of Association

4. Minutes and resolution of the board of directors to open an account (they have a template)

5. Last Annual Declaration Form (NAR1) if the company is more than one year old.

6. Organizational chart (if applicable)

7. Bank reference (required!) from a Hong Kong bank - business or personal account.

8. Documents of the directors (at least 2 directors, including the managing director) :

8a: Identity documents

8b: Residential proof (utility, telephone, government form within 3 months)

8c: Proof of nationality (passport (for non-HK permanent identity card holders))

8d: Proof of permanent address (if different from residential address)

8e: Bank reference

9: All the administrator's identification information (name, identification number and type)

He asked me if I was a new registered company, which he immediately assumed (I look quite young). So, by having a company less than a year old, I can skip some of the required documents, such as the annual report.

I said I was American and he said they were no longer accepting American clients. He said that the U.S. regulators have talked to them and they have a lot of paperwork to do. This guy was nice and open to me - he explained to me that there are American customers who have been waiting for an account for 6 months and they are still waiting.

I was a little disappointed, so he told me that if I wanted to try, I could bring my already completed W-9 form. But he had just told me it would be a lot of work.

I don't want to get him in trouble, so I don't want to share his name - but he was nice! He explained that there is a list of high-risk countries that the bank does not do business with for political reasons. It was a bit funny that he mentioned this after he said that they no longer accept Americans. The United States wasn't on the list - but I'm beginning to think they'll be on it soon.

I have asked how can I get a bank reference letter from a Hong Kong bank if I am a new business and new to Hong Kong. He said that's what his management makes him do. That it's getting harder and harder. He asked me if I could find other banks that are easier. He asked me which banks are easier now - that other customers are telling him that all the banks in Hong Kong are getting harder and harder.

Since he was pretty open with me, I opened up to him. I explained that I have visited over 15 banks in the last few weeks and that I am doing some research. Then he asked me what my business was. When I talked about accounting, he told me that it was a high-risk business and that this bank did not accept accounting firms. Wow! He said they audit the company by looking at the company's transactions, not just the invoices.

Although I wasn't very happy with the results, he was open to me trying to apply. The minimum bank account balance is one of the lowest I found with 10,000 HKD minimum to avoid the monthly fee of 100 HKD.

Something else to note! During the conversation, he stated that new bank accounts cannot receive T/Ts (telegraphic transfers!). At least not for the first 3 months of the account. So, for those who read - it's mostly unusable if you live outside of Hong Kong. The account is only useful for domestic business in Hong Kong until 3 months have passed.

Bank of Communication

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On my list. I almost made one on my trip, but I didn't have time.

Hang Seng

https://www.globalfromasia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/hang-seng-bank-hk.jpeg

I've been to this bank several times with clients I work with. I have to confirm, but a few months ago they asked for a non-refundable registration fee of 1,000 HKD! The client had no interest in giving them this fee without any indication that he would have a chance to get the account approved.

The banker explained that they charge this non-refundable fee because of the large amount of paperwork they now have to complete. That it costs the bank a high administration fee. She also explained that she could not give any indication as to whether they could approve her application as a back office process. She added that the bank no longer tells people what to prepare. This is because there have been cases where applicants have fabricated documents to meet these requirements.

It's crazy, right?

Obviously, this left a bitter taste in our mouths and made me hesitate to apply.

Standard Chartered

https://www.globalfromasia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/standard-chartered-1.jpg

I worked with a client to create an account here in early summer. They were professional and helpful. No registration fees. But the minimum monthly requirement was 300,000 HKD, if not a fee of 200 HKD. Quite high and the client told me that even if he had approved for this bank, he couldn't keep the account open too long.

ANZ: Australia and New Zealand Banking

A few people told me to check ANZ. It's on my shortlist and I'm going to check that bank. I'm just concerned that if it's headquartered in Australia, it's not helping local businesses in Hong Kong.

A new online banking option - NEAT HK

At GFA - we are committed to helping you find the best financial services for your business. We have been approached by a FinTech startup in Hong Kong - Neat - and we have a full blog post about their solution - read the blog post about the Neat HK Business Banking solution.

Common trends during the visit of these banks

So there you go. Did I miss any banks? Keep me posted!

What common trends did you observe?

Certain things certainly help for some banks and are:

  • Presentations / References

Knowing an existing customer at the bank seems to make some bankers "feel more confident" and pay more attention to you. Others need this affiliation. And some banks don't seem to care (HSBC).

  • HKID (Hong Kong ID)

Having a Hong Kong identity card, with permanent status (there are different levels of HKID) is certainly a help when applying. This may be because they consider the applicant to be more legitimate. Some banks said that this was due to new regulations. Others did not seem to ask the question and only had a policy for passport holders.

  • Age of the company

There are different requirements if your company is more than one year old or not. You don't know if it's more useful if your bank is older or not. Some of my friends told me that they asked the bank and they were told that their business had to be more than 2 years old before they could apply (HSBC told them). Nevertheless, there are some differences in the applications depending on whether your business is more or less than 1 year old.

Basic checklist for opening a corporate bank account in Hong Kong

So, you're probably overwhelmed with information with this comprehensive guide, right? Well, from what I've written, I found that there were some basic trends in the company's bank account checklist:

  • CI - Company Incorporation - is the key identification for your business in Hong Kong.
  • BRC - Business Registration Certificate - the second most important identification is your taxes to the IRD (Internal Revenue Department).
  • M&A - Memorandum and Articles of Association
  • Director Identification - Passport or HKID of all owners of more than 10% shares (there are some differences between banks)
  • Proof of Residence - proof of residence 3 months or more old or more recent proof of your residential address, in English or Chinese. Government or utility bill.
  • Are You American - Different Policies Now for Americans and Non-Americans

Which banks did I like?

After all that, the two days of intensive research, which ones stood out? I'm not sure that's very fair to be honest. It also depends on how lucky I was depending on the customer service representative I came across and also on how I acted in each situation.

But here are a few of them that struck me:

  • HSBC - even though I know that bank account applications are difficult to get approved now, it's so professional and classy.
  • Citibank - I didn't expect to put this one here, but they were so nice at the branch. Others have also told me that they provide excellent customer service.
  • Shanghai Commercial - they were nice, after I told them I knew someone who already had an account.

Maybe if I told all the banks that I knew someone who had an account, they would treat me better. That's another reason why I think it's not fair to pick my favorites. I based the three above more than anything else on their customer service and clear documentation.

Another option - Remittance services in Asia

You may also consider making money transfers instead of opening a dedicated bank account in Asia. We have a recommendation from Remittance Partner - GoRemit is a leading cross-border payment service in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Greater China. Through our independent end-to-end payment network, GoRemit delivers same business day payments with a competitive, fair and transparent exchange rate.

What are your experiences?

Now it's your turn! Please leave a comment below and share your own experiences with us. I hope this guide is full of amazing experiences, tips and warnings. Let's all work together to make it easier to open a corporate bank account in Hong Kong!

Doing business with a Hong Kong company is great, let's do our best to enable more and more new business owners to get the same experience.

Cheers, and good luck to all!

Banking situation 2019

We received this letter from a blog reader who asked us for some recommendations on what to do after being evicted from HSBC.

"I hope you're doing well in Thailand! I need to go there one day.

HSBC in Hong Kong finally wired me out of their bank. Even though I dutifully filled out their mountains of paperwork, they basically told me to go elsewhere at the end of last year.

It wasn't a big deal, because the main reason was that I was doing a lot of sourcing for other companies and business dried up for a while.

Well, it looks like 2020 will be another important year for this part of my business. With the tariffs, people are now asking for help to relocate some of their business to Vietnam or Indonesia where I have some contacts.

I was wondering if you could help me find a direction for my HK company to go in for banking?

You and I have met before, so you know I'm just a regular guy. That's why I was really attracted to your podcast from the beginning, because I could tell you were just like me. Not pretentious.

Anyway, you seem to be doing very well in your business. I hope your meeting in GZ goes well!

I'm trying to plan a trip, but it looks like September rather than October for my fall trip. I hope HK will calm down by then! »

My answer:

"Hi,

Yes, it is sad to say, but more and more people are receiving the "death letter" from HSBC. Perhaps if it is not used much or if the bank does not make much money from fees, they feel it is more of a liability than an asset on their company's books.

As with other banks, we are a partner with the CPA's Unipro Consulting firm and can offer a service to arrange a banking appointment and other assistance for a flat fee, and if we are unable to do so, we will refund everything except the processing fee of 100 $US, but if we are successful, the fee remains. You can contact us for more information - because this is a constantly evolving service, we don't have a clear online sales page to go to and you need to speak to a Unipro Customer Success Representative. »

Banking situation 2018

We got it from a recent blog reader:

"I'm still opening bank accounts here in Hong Kong because of redundancy [deleted] I've been doing the same thing you're talking about...walking around trying to get a bank account. If you're not going to get a referral to the bank, I've seen the most success by first doing it by email/phone (directly with the GR) and then going for a follow-up about the application.

It has definitely become much more difficult to open a bank account in Hong Kong!

Thank you for writing all this down, it's very helpful. »

Yanni

If you want to open a bank account in a financial institution in Hong Kong, our experts can help you, they have a solution;