Business banking in Hong Kong

Is it complicated?

Business banking in Hong Kong

If you are planning to do business in Hong Kong, one of the first steps might be to get a corporate bank account. This is a process which can get complicated and cause delay.

Opening a corporate bank account in Hong Kong goes hand in hand with a long application process. As the Hong Kong Monetary Authority  states, international efforts in combating illegal activities make opening an account a longer and more complex process than five years ago. 

Application process

Business owners are advised to make an appointment with the bank in advance to gather all the required documentation and submit their applications. There are even agencies specialised in helping foreign companies with this. Additionally, some banks do not offer an online application processes so you will need to be physically present in Hong Kong at their branch.

Lengthy customer due diligence checks

All banks will require checks to verify that the company in question is not involved in any illegal activity (money laundering as a prime example). These extra customer due diligence (CDD) measures cost the bank in both time and money and subsequently not all banks will be willing to carry them out, especially if the business is not seen as sufficiently profitable.

New businesses and startups

Being a new company, you will not have any proof of previous business activity or financial records. As these documents are a key element in securing that your type of business is both safe and legal, Hong Kong banks may in turn reject your application. They hold a risk-based approach which can be at odds with new business models.

Complex business structures

If your company has multiple owners or directors, banks in Hong Kong will need to run checks on all directors and owners of the business. If these owners also have their own companies, this will only add to the time required to verify that all associated business is legal. The simpler your business structure, the less time will need to be spent examining your company’s legitimacy.

Meeting the country requirements

Hong Kong has a publicly visible list  specifying which countries are not permitted to open an account in the region. All banks are required to abide to this list so if your home country is mentioned this may be the reasoning behind your rejection.

An easier alternative

Today there are easier options to open an account in Hong Kong, such as Neat  - an alternative to a bank. As they offer services especially catered to entrepreneurs, business owners outside of Hong Kong can be approved for a corporate account within a week using their online application process.

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