Opening a corporate bank account in Singapore
Once a company has been incorporated in Singapore, the next step is to open a bank account. The process of opening a business account in Singapore is straightforward as long as the correct documentation is provided and the proper procedure is followed. This article provides an overview of the procedure for opening a business bank account in Singapore and it includes the following topics:
- Singapore continues to be well regarded as a triple-A rated economy. The country is ranked as the world’s third-best financial centre behind London and New York City. Almost all of the world’s major banks have a strong presence in Singapore.
- Key banks that offer the widest range of corporate banking services to small to midsize companies include local banks OCBC, DBS, and UOB; and international banks Standard Chartered, HSBC, and Citibank.
- Bank fees and minimum balance amounts vary greatly from bank to bank; therefore it’s important to carefully choose a bank that suits your needs.
- Singapore banks offer business accounts denominated in Singapore dollars as well as most major currencies. Bank fees and minimum balance requirements vary from bank to bank. But in general, the fees are extremely competitive and fair.
- Due to anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regulations, banks in Singapore require at least one executive director to be present in Singapore to open a corporate bank account. As we all appreciate, customer due diligence requirements have been tightened globally to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, it’s often challenging for banks to distinguish between the vast majority of bona fide businesses and those few businesses created as front companies for money laundering, especially in the case of a start-up since there is no business history or records to refer to. Banks therefore need information and documents from start-ups to better understand their business and risk profiles. Currently, banks takes 3-4 weeks to process bank account applications.
Who Can Open a Corporate Bank Account?
In Singapore the following business structures can open corporate bank accounts:
To open a corporate bank account in Singapore, a company must provide the following documents:
- A completed corporate account application form signed by the authorised signatories and company directors.
- A Board of Directors resolution authorising the opening of a corporate bank account. This document is prepared by the company secretary and must be signed by 2 directors or 1 director and the company secretary.
- A certified true copy of the company constitution, signed by a company director or the company secretary.
- Certified true copies of the identification documents (passport or Singapore IC) of the following individuals:
- Company directors
- Authorised signatories to the account
- Ultimate beneficial owners
- Certified true copies of proof of residential address for all directors, authorised signatories and UBOs (this can be a utility bill or a bank statement). The documents must have been issued within the last 3 months.
- W8 or W9 of the Self Certification Form for Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA). FACTA is an intergovernmental agreement to help counter tax evasion by US taxpayers. Under the act, Singapore banks are required to report information on financial accounts held directly or indirectly by US taxpayers to the US Internal Revenue Service. A bank customer who qualifies as a US taxpayer will be required to complete a W8 or W9 form.
One of the most common delays when opening a bank account is not providing the required documents. Note that the list above is just for general reference only; banks policies are always changing and they have the right to ask for additional supporting documents as they deem fit.
Account Opening Procedure
To apply to open a bank account, a company must submit the application form and supporting documents to the bank.
Note that many banks in Singapore require the company directors and authorised signatories to be present at a local Singapore branch in order to sign the necessary paperwork in the presence of bank staff. Furthermore, the directors and signatories will be required to present his or her original passport or Singapore IC when signing the necessary documents.
Certain banks allow the company directors and authorised signatories to sign all necessary paperwork at a foreign branch in the presence of bank staff. However, to avoid delays, it’s best to be present in Singapore when opening a bank account.
In order to perform required Know Your Customer (KYC) due diligence, the bank will then review the application and documentation and, if necessary, request additional documents from the company.
Guide to Banking Fees
- Annual or monthly account fee
- Fall below fee (this refers to a fee assessed if the account does not meet or “falls below” the minimum required balance). Fall below fees apply to corporate bank accounts in Singapore dollars and foreign currency accounts
- Cheque service fee
- Online banking fee
- GIRO transaction fees (GIRO is a payment service that allows companies to pay their bills through an automatic bank transfer. Many government agencies prefer payment made through GIRO).
- Outward remittance fees (this is a fee assessed for sending money to another country)
Major Banks in Singapore
There are over 30 local and international banks that offer corporate bank accounts in Singapore. Some of the most prominent banks in Singapore include:
Local Singapore banks
- Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC)
- United Overseas Bank (UOB)
- The Development Bank of Singapore (DBS)