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How to open a corporate account in Singapore?

Why do you need a bank account in Singapore?
Thousands of international companies open accounts in Singapore and hold funds in Singapore currency. What are the reasons for such popularity of Singapore?

  • Singapore is a reliable jurisdiction with an excellent international reputation
  • Stable political situation in the country
  • Stable exchange rate of Singapore dollar
  • No currency control
  • Multicurrency accounts
  • Fast ability to send and receive international payments
  • Moderate charges for annual maintenance of accounts (average from $50 to $1500 per year and includes opening an account in all major currencies)
  • Possibility to manage your account remotely from any country in the world
  • Ability to obtain bank tokens, debit and credit cards, and checkbooks for account management
  • Possibility of linking to popular international payment systems (Stripe, Paypal and others)
  • Banking secrecy and confidentiality
  • All current and deposit accounts in Singapore dollars are insured by the Deposit Insurance Scheme for a minimum amount of SGD 75,000.

Open an account with a bank in Singapore for legal entities - high standards of international settlements, multi-currency accounts, remote account management and convenient solutions for small and medium-sized businesses as well.

How to open a corporate account in Singapore for foreigners
However, it's not all that simple. Let's be frank - opening a bank account in Singapore for foreigners, especially those with passports from Russia, Ukraine and some other CIS countries, is not an easy task at all. Especially when it comes to opening accounts for companies with foreign ownership or country of incorporation.

Keep in mind that having a legal entity in Singapore does NOT guarantee the opening of a bank account. What is the reason for this? Foreign companies carry much higher risks for banks than local businesses, which can lead to huge fines and even license revocation. Therefore, banks have higher requirements for companies with foreign directors or shareholders.

Each bank has its own list of requirements, including a list of required documents, mandatory deposit requirements when opening an account and other nuances. Thus it is possible to allocate the following main requirements for opening a current account for business:

  • Providing a full package of documents
  • Initial deposit, which as a rule varies from $1,000 to $100,000 depending on the bank, as well as readiness to keep minimum balance on the account ($5,000 - $100,000).
  • Presence of directors and signatories in person.

Priority in the opening of corporate bank accounts is given to legal entities that are officially registered in Singapore and have local ownership of at least 30% (i.e. at least 30% of the company shares are owned by a local resident - a citizen or permanent resident of the country). Also, compliance with these conditions gives great opportunities for the choice of bank, type of account and rate schedule.

If you have a company registered in Singapore, but 100% of the company is owned by a foreigner - do not worry, in your case you can also open an account, it will just be a bit more difficult.

To open an account, the applicant must provide the following documents:

  • A completed application to open an account (in the bank's form or online)
  • Decision of the Board of Directors on opening an account
  • Information on the owners
  • Copies of passports and proof of residency of all directors and shareholders
  • Certificate of registration of the company
  • Copy of Articles of Incorporation.

This is the so-called list of mandatory documents. In addition to them, each bank has a list of how we classify them - recommended, highly recommended and desirable documents - and the more documents from this list you provide, the higher chances that the bank will open an account for you.

Opening an account for foreign companies
If you have a company registered in another country - in your case you can also open an account, just the requirements for the necessary documents will be much stricter. The country of company registration also matters.

In addition, the cost of maintaining the account also increases. For example, most banks charge foreign companies a one-time fee for opening an account ranging from $500 to $1500.

  • As for the required documents, in addition to the list above, a foreign company will need to provide:
  • Details of the legal entity and officers (the official form of the registering authority)
  • Details of directors and shareholders
  • Letter of recommendation from a recognized bank
  • Tax return / Audited financial statement.

This is the so-called list of basic mandatory documents, in addition to them each bank has a list of additional documents.

Absolutely all documents must be translated into English and certified accordingly.
Why banks don't open accounts
Banks never reveal their reasons for refusing to open an account. But our many years of experience has allowed us to make our top 10 reasons why foreigners are refused to open a bank account in Singapore:

  1. Wrong choice of bank (Singapore banks have their own "loyalty" ratings, by which we mean the list of countries and industries the bank works with). For example, OCBC, despite the fact that it is one of the best banks in Singapore, for many years remains disloyal to Russian passports. And another bank from the top 3 - UOB quite calmly opens them.
  2. You have not convinced the bank of the reality of your business. You need to understand that the bank is not interested in a start-up company with vague plans, an unclear business model, and tiny (in banking terms) turnover.
  3. You have not convinced the bank of the need for a bank account in Singapore. A classic situation: the client says "my counterparties are in Russia, Kazakhstan and China", which is followed by a logical question - why do you need an account in Singapore? You need to be prepared for this question in advance.
  4. Mistakes in the application, indicating unreliable or insufficient data, lack of site.
  5. Ignorance of bank compliance requirements. Every bank has a list of unfavorable countries, nationalities and types of activities that are considered high-risk. This can lead to information that banks would consider to be high risk and this, in turn, can be a reason to refuse to open an account.
  6. Failure to provide a full list of documents that could confirm the seriousness of you and your company.
  7. Improper interview behavior, including disclosing information during the interview that will alarm the bank representatives rather than convince them of your trustworthiness.
  8. Directors or shareholders of companies are blacklisted internationally (down to a simple name match).
  9. The bank has suspicions about the possibility of dubious transactions, including money laundering, in which the CIS countries are suspected by default.
  10. Serial nominee director - if your nominee director has more than 12 companies, your chances of opening an account tend to zero.

Tips on opening corporate accounts for foreigners
Until recently, the account opening rate for citizens of Russia and the CIS countries is about 90%. There is no panacea that will give you a 100% guarantee of opening an account in Singapore. But we provide a list of tips on what factors can significantly improve your chances of opening a bank account:

  • Having a working similar business in other countries,
  • proven experience of directors and shareholders in the company's field of activity,
  • competent resume in business English of directors and shareholders of the company,
  • availability of a company website,
  • availability of contracts/agreements of intent with potential clients and partners,
  • availability of invoices and proof of payment (for existing businesses in other countries)
  • A nominee director with a minimum number of companies (the rule is the less the better)
  • Limited access to bank account for verified nominee director
  • availability of business clients/partners in Singapore
  • A working or long-term visa to Singapore
  • Availability of an office and staff in Singapore.

Alternatives to a bank account
If you are a startup and do not qualify for the bank requirements, or for some other reason you cannot open a bank account in Singapore, you actually have 3 main alternatives:

  • Registering a fully nominee firm, with a nominee director and shareholder who is a Singapore resident. In this case, the nominee director/shareholder will fully represent your interests at the bank, without the need for your presence there
  • Opening an account in another country
  • Opening of the account in the payment system.

In this case, the last 2 options give you the opportunity to build up connections and contracts, with which you can come later to the bank. In this case, opening a bank account will be much easier for you.

If you need assistance, RSBS specialists are always ready to help you on all issues related to opening bank accounts, registration of companies, accounting and financial reporting, processing of work and long-term visas, as well as finding business partners and comprehensive support of your business in Singapore.