As a financial hub in Southeast Asia, Singapore hosts a variety of local and foreign financial institutions. As such, nearly all major foreign banks have a presence in the city-state and a Singapore-based corporate account can receive funds from any location worldwide, efficiently.
The city-state is home to over 100 commercial banks and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is the main agency regulating all the financial institutions in Singapore.
In this article, we discuss the requirements to open a corporate bank account in Singapore, including the necessary documents, and procedures, and note the country’s prominent banking institutions.
What are the factors to consider when choosing a Singaporean bank?
When opening a bank account, there are several factors to consider, mainly:
- The type of financial services your business requires and whether the bank provides such services;
- The minimum initial deposit;
- The type of currency your business will be transacting in; and
- The ease of transactions.
What are the requirements to open a Singapore bank account?
Singapore banks are set to request comprehensive information from foreign clients regarding their professional backgrounds and proposed business plans. Foreign-owned companies or individuals can expect to provide more detailed information compared to their local counterparts. The banks will conduct Know Your Customer (KYC) checks, which involve conducting thorough due diligence to verify identities and evaluate potential risks. This process may also involve identifying the ultimate beneficial owner (UBO) in corporate structures and gathering information on all intermediate corporate layers.
This is time consuming, and it will take clients several months to provide these in most cases. Banks may also request supplier, vendor and client contracts, a list of the top vendors and suppliers as well as countries and jurisdictions that the company will engage with.
Most banks also have minimum account balances and minimum revenues that clients need to maintain - otherwise the account opening will be rejected. Clients should do their research and engage trusted advisors with a network of contacts in the banking sector to facilitate account openings.
Proof of company incorporation in Singapore
This comprises the following document:
- A certified true copy of the company’s Certificate of Incorporation;
- Completed corporate account opening forms;
- A certified true copy of the company’s Articles of Association;
- A certified true copy of the company’s business profile from the Company Registrar; and
- A Board of Directors resolution sanctioning the opening of the account with their signatories.
Proof of residential address
The company’s shareholders, directors, and ultimate beneficial owners need to provide proof of residency.
Information on the ultimate beneficial owners
This information can be provided through a biography write-up, through a profile on the company website, or by submitting a CV.
The ultimate beneficial owner is the person who ultimately owns or manages the company. According to Anti-Money Laundering/ Counter Financing Of Terrorism Guidelines For Registered Filing Agents, this person either owns 25% or more of the company’s shares, controls 25% or more of the company’s voting rights, or who has significant control over the business.
Detailed company information
The bank also requires detailed information on the company and its proposed business activities, potential clients/customers, as well as anticipated transaction activity. The requests can vary between banks.
Local banks will have a lower setup fee than international banks and there may be additional fees for extra services such as internet banking.
The type of fees include:
- Minimum deposits – the minimum amount required to open a bank account;
- ATM withdrawal fees – some banks will charge a fee for withdrawing from their ATM, this often applies to non-members of the bank;
- International transfer fees – the fee applies to transactions to another country; and
- Early closure fees – apply when the account is closed within six months of opening.
- Banking institutions in Singapore
Major Singaporean banking institutions
Common international banks in Singapore
- Bank of America;
- Bank of China; and
- JP Morgan Chase.
Opening bank accounts in Singapore can be a relatively quick and smooth process, if all necessary documents are prepared and the other requirements are met. For newly establishing companies, a helpful prerequisite is for your incorporation process to be well managed and at the right step.