Opening a Corporate Bank Account in Singapore
This is a comprehensive article on opening a corporate bank account in Singapore. It provides an overview of the recent regulatory changes that affect bank account opening in Singapore and offers guidelines for navigating the new Customer Due Diligence procedures that banks have established. By following these guidelines, you can utilize the fast-track procedures our firm has established for opening your Singapore company's bank account quickly and easily.
As one of the leading financial centers of the world, Singapore offers world-class options in banking and related financial services for corporate clients. As a result of OECD Financial Regulation recommendations, Singapore banks have heightened their scrutiny of new clients, particularly foreigners. CorporateServices.com has also established fast-track processing workflows with its partner banks in Singapore to streamline this process.
Topics Covered in the Article
How About a Digital Bank Account?
While this article is focused on opening a corporate bank account with a traditional Singapore bank (OCBC, DBS, HSBC, Standard Chartered, etc.), in recent times, given the long account opening processing times associated with traditional banks, digital banking is becoming a popular banking option for Singapore companies. Digital banks (e.g. Wise - formerly TransferWise) operate exclusively online and have no physical branches. So customers of these institutions can manage their finances entirely from smartphones and computers.
Digital banking offers numerous advantages for businesses, such as fast account opening, low initial deposit requirements, low fees, fast and cheap international transfers, easier management of multiple currencies, and many others. It may be an excellent option for many situations. Please find more information in our guide opening a digital bank account for Singapore companies.
Key Facts About Banking in Singapore
Singapore is a well-regarded, triple-A rated economy. It is ranked as the world’s fourth leading financial center in the most recent edition of the Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI). With the recent turmoil and unrest in Hong Kong, it is now considered the world's third-best financial center behind London and New York City.
All banks in Singapore offer multi-currency accounts and secure internet banking. You are free to maintain funds and conduct transactions in any major currency. There are no restrictions on receiving funds or making payments internationally (subject to any international sanctions against certain countries). Bank fees and minimum balance requirements vary from bank to bank. In general, the fees are globally competitive and fair.
A digital bank account such as Wise (former - Transferwise) is becoming increasingly popular in Singapore. Many of our clients use a digital banking account for their needs due to the ease of operating the account and lower transaction fees.
Nearly all major banks of the world have a presence in Singapore. In addition, Singapore is host to several highly-regarded and very well-capitalized domestic banks.
Singapore’s banks are fully integrated into the global financial system and operate without any government-imposed financial controls on the movement of funds. As a result, a Singapore-based corporate bank account can receive funds from or send legal payments anywhere in the world efficiently.
Opened bank accounts are subject to review and approval by the bank's regulatory compliance department. If you are just incorporating a shell company with no legitimate real business activity, you are less likely to succeed in opening a bank account in Singapore. On the other hand, if your reasons and purpose are legitimate, background of company stakeholders is clean, your business structure is transparent, and you have a regional nexus, you should not have any problem with opening a bank account.
Tighter Scrutiny by Traditional Banks
A key reason Singapore’s banking system operates so smoothly is the careful vetting it performs to ensure that new participants in the system are trustworthy and honest players. In recent times, Singapore has implemented a robust regulatory framework and supervisory strategy to comply with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) guidelines. According to the FATF’s latest report, Singapore stands out in its compliance — it was found to be Non-Compliant on not a single one of the 40 FATF recommendations.
This means that every Singapore bank has to perform a detailed “Know Your Client” assessment of all new applicants before it can accept them as clients. This is not a discretionary step — it is mandated by Singapore’s banking regulations. The Customer Due Diligence (CDD) process of banks involves verifying the identity and background of the company's key personnel, source of funds, legal structure of the company, nature of the company's business, etc.. Onboarding also includes checks for Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) and Adverse Media risk assessment in order to discover customers’ potential involvement in any corrupt or nefarious activities. If the CDD process raises any alerts, the banks can ask for additional clarifying information or deny the account opening outright. Singapore’s financial regulator — the Monetary Authority of Singapore — uses data analytics as a monitoring tool for its supervisory role. This involves the collection, aggregation, and analysis of financial data in order to detect suspicious transactions and patterns. Banks also want to make sure that there are genuine reasons for setting up the company in Singapore and that it's not just as a shell entity.
Introduction from a Trusted Relationship Helps
Your guidance for opening our bank account was invaluable. With our complex holding structure it would have taken us weeks to get through the Due Diligence checks, but with your guidance and recommendation, we got it all done in one meeting. Thanks!
Information Requested by Banks
For Locally-Owned Singapore Companies
For Foreign-Owned Singapore Companies
Since data about foreign nationals is not readily available to Singapore banks from the Singapore government's information system, banks must collect more detailed information from foreign clients about their identification, professional background, and their proposed business venture. Collection, verification and vetting of this information can take some time for banks. Consequently, it can take a few weeks to open a bank account when a company is owned by foreign nationals. However, our CSP platform will facilitate the collection and transmission of all information to our banking partners.
The bank will require the following information and documents from foreign nationals:
Same Day Account Opening - Fact or Gimmick?
Same day corporate bank account opening is possible ONLY for companies that are wholly-owned by Singapore residents. If any incorporation firm is promising an instantaneous (or nearly instantaneous) bank account opening for a foreign-owned company, be very skeptical of such claims. The Singapore regulations simply do not permit fast-track processing of bank account opening for foreign-owned entities at present. For the reasons described earlier in this article, banks need a longer period to vet information about foreign nationals; therefore, the process takes up to a few weeks.
While opening a new bank account, it helps to understand the objectives that the bank’s CDD is attempting to achieve — at the simplest level, the bank wants to verify that the account applicants are who they say they are. This is usually done through a review of the official identification documents. The bank also wants to understand the nature and source of the funds that will be deposited into the account — information about the company’s business model and the professional background of its key executives can help establish this understanding. Since Singapore’s government information systems store most of its data in electronic forms, it is easy for the banks to verify this information for a Singaporean resident but the same is not the case for a foreigner. Therefore, foreign-owned or foreign-managed companies face a more detailed and time-consuming examination by the banks.
Singapore Offshore Company Bank Account Opening Checklist
List of Banks in Singapore
How Can We Help?
For every business, opening a bank account is a necessity and it is often the very first task after incorporating the business. In response to the AML and CTF regulations, Singapore banks have tightened their customer due diligence process to ensure that the bank account is used for legitimate business activities only.
CorporateServices.com has developed a trusted relationship with our banking partners that provides fast-track and streamlined processing of bank account opening for our clients. CorporateServices.com has implemented an online electronic protocol with these banks for immediate transmission of the account application information and supporting documents from our CSP Platform to the bank to enable fast-track processing. Contact us, and we will be thrilled to assist you.
ROGER SMART, TIGER PARTNERS (SG) PTE. LTD.
Frequently Asked Questions
Singapore's banking regulations have tightened significantly. Choose the firm banks trust and avoid any banking hassles later.
"OCBC’s collaboration with your team has dramatically streamlined the account opening process for new clients. The CSP software platform is a key enabler of this success."Denis Tan, Associate Director
Global Enterprise Banking, OCBC Bank
"... your team's communication has always been great. My company and the bank account were set up almost immediately."Akash Kamra,