Are you starting a new business in Hong Kong, or do you already have an established business you want to expand into Hong Kong and Asia?
Whatever the reason, you will most likely need to open a business bank account in Hong Kong.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way: bank account opening in Hong Kong is not an easy task, especially for new Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
Be prepared to invest time and possibly money to get your business account in Hong Kong...
with no guarantee that you will have it opened in the end.
Thankfully, we have gathered the commonly asked questions and answers to help you make the application process as seamless as possible.
We have also introduced alternatives to traditional banking services, like Statrys, that may help you to easily and quickly open a business account for your Hong Kong company.
1. Banking options in Hong Kong
It's no secret that Hong Kong is one of the largest financial hubs in Asia, and the most popular local and international banks you'll come across include:
- OCBC Wing Hang
- Bank of China (Hong Kong)
- Bank of East Asia
- Standard Chartered
- Hang Seng Bank
- DBS Bank
- DSBC Bank
- KBC Bank
Actually, there are more than 100 banks licensed to provide business banking services in Hong Kong. That means you definitely have options to open a corporate bank account in Hong Kong.
Should you look for a particular bank, you can access the full list of Hong Kong banks here. It is said that DBS Bank and Hang Seng Bank are more friendly to SME businesses.
Many small businesses, however, are turning to alternatives like Statrys Business account.
Still, opening a corporate bank account is only getting more difficult. So what's the catch?
2. Why is it difficult to open business bank accounts in Hong Kong?
Essentially, thanks to international criminal activities like that of Pablo Escobar or the Panama papers. To fight these activities, almost every country in the world has decided to impose strict compliance rules on banks.
These rules are commonly referred to as Know Your Customer (KYC) policies and anti-money laundering regulations (AML).
However, as these compliance rules get more strict and complex every year, applying them is increasingly costly for banks. They also face the risk of multi-million dollar fines in the case that something goes wrong.
In all, this means SME business accounts become less profitable for Hong Kong banks, so they are becoming less and less interested in serving your SME business needs.
This trend isn't specific to Hong Kong, yet Hong Kong has become one of the countries where it's most challenging to open business a corporate bank account. Up to a point where the business community and local regulators of Hong Kong have asked banks to address the problem of business account opening.
3. Which Bank Account do you need?
When launching your company, you'll need a specific kind of bank account: a business bank account.
So what exactly is it?
A business bank account is a bank account maintained under the name of a company and is used to serve your business needs in terms of holding, receiving, and sending money.
Some banks also refer to this as a "corporate bank account" or a "commercial bank account."
We will also use these terms synonymously throughout this article.
Why must we clarify this point?
First, you must use the correct terminology when applying for an account.
Second, too many entrepreneurs carry out their company's business using a personal bank account, i.e., an account opened under their name.
This is a recipe for disaster when the time comes to do the company accounting. Worst case scenario, the entrepreneur even runs the risk of paying both corporate and personal taxes on the profit generated by his business.
4. What are the required documents to open a business bank account?
The hardest part of opening a business bank account is gathering all the required documents.
Each bank has its prerequisites of what you need to give to them and how you need to submit the required documents. However, you will find some common documents that many Hong Kong banks ask for to open a commercial account.
Usually, the first thing to do is to complete the bank account application form provided by the bank. It can be found either online or needs to be organized in a branch. If available online, you can download the form and have it filled out before you visit the branch.
To get an idea of the information required in the application form, you may use the links for some popular Hong Kong banks listed below:
This form is usually the easiest to organize, as you will then have to gather various other necessary documents to accompany this form.
Different banks have different requirements for bank account opening, but you may expect all local and international banks to require at least the following documents:
- A resolution by the board of directors: the purpose of this resolution is to approve the opening of the corporate bank account and give one person the authority to handle the application with the bank.
- Establishment documents: are all documents proving that your company was duly incorporated and validly registered. Business registration documents vary depending on where your company is incorporated. For a Hong Kong company, this includes the certificate of incorporation, a valid business registration certificate, and the articles of association.
- Organisational chart: a chart showing the shareholding and management structure of the company. On one page, this chart must indicate who the directors, the shareholders, and the ultimate beneficial owners of the company are. It must also show the percentage of equity held by the ultimate beneficial owners in the company.
- ID documents: a copy of the ID documents (passport, Hong Kong identity card, or driver's license) of the directors, shareholders, and ultimate beneficial owners.
- Proof of residence: utility bills or bank statements of the directors, shareholders, and ultimate beneficial owners. The proof of residency must indicate the residence address and usually be dated no more than three months. You may want to check our recommendations for getting proof of address, should you reside in Hong Kong, Singapore, or the UK.
- Business plan: a simplified business plan explains the company's business and gives projections of the company's expenses and revenues for the coming 12 months.
- A Certificate of Incumbency: this certificate, also known as the Certificate of Good Standing, is required for offshore companies for which little public information is available. It shall provide information about the management and ownership structure of the company and confirm that it is in good order.
All these professionals will very likely charge you a fee for their service.
So, you should check with the bank that they are satisfied with the content and format of the document before arranging for its certification. This will save you the cost of paying twice.
5. How to open a business account for companies outside Hong Kong?
It's perfectly legal for a Hong Kong bank to provide banking services to a company registered outside of Hong Kong. It is also perfectly possible to apply for a corporate bank account for companies whose shareholders and/or directors are not residents of Hong Kong.
However, either of these situations will often result in Hong Kong banks being reluctant to open a corporate bank account.
Why is this the case?
Put yourself in the bank's shoes: why would a company with no presence in Hong Kong need a business bank account here?
Opening a corporate bank account is especially questionable when the offshore companies are registered in some exotic location known for its lack of transparency.
If you have business opportunities in the region, you may consider registering a Hong Kong company to increase your success in opening your business account.
This would make your life easier with the banks and give you more time to focus on your business endeavors.
6. Is it possible to open a business account online?
It was once impossible to complete the whole process online. Times are changing, though, and some Hong Kong banks now offer remote sign-up services (sometimes with a hefty fee) to open a new business account.
However, the traditional process is still the most common. Depending on the bank, you may be able to submit the application form and supporting documents online but then need to meet them in Hong Kong to finalize the process.
Typically, at least one of the directors of the company must visit the bank. In some cases, a physical meeting may be required for all directors and shareholders.
Insider tip: Make an appointment and check what you need to bring - Don't think that you can simply show up at a branch, meet with a bank representative, and have the business bank account opened on the spot.
It's important you do your homework before visiting the bank (check their website/give them a call). Otherwise, you'll end up traveling to the most expensive city in the world just to hear a bank representative explain the process to you!
Alternatively, if you prefer an online application experience, Statrys business accounts might be your solution.
7. What are the costs of opening a business bank account in Hong Kong?
Business bank accounts do not come for free. You should be prepared to pay, at minimum, an account opening fee, and an initial deposit.
It's impossible to tell the exact cost or even give a range, as the fee policies of banks are far from being easy to understand. You can easily get lost very quickly with the added fees they charge.
If you are brave enough, we encourage you to read the fee policies from the following banks:
To make things easier, we've done some of the hard work for you and produced a table below that compares some options available in Hong Kong.
Here you'll get to see some common fees that come with opening a standard business account with HSBC, Hang Seng Bank, and Statrys – an online alternative to traditional banks.
Fee Comparison Table for Business Accounts in Hong Kong
|HSBC Sprint Account||Hang Seng Bank Biz Virtual+ Account||Statrys Virtual Business Account|
|Account opening fee||$HK 1300 fee**||Remote: $HK 600 Business center: $HK1200||$HK 0 (unless a special company)|
|Monthly account keeping fee||$HK 0 for the first 12 months
Based on Total relationship balance (TRP):
$HK 200 per month for balances under 50,000
$HK 0 per month for balances over 50,000
|Fee waived until TRP is calculated after 3 months
$HK 0 if TRP is over USD 50,000
$HK 200 if TRP is less than USD 50,000 after 24 months
|$HK 88 per month
Based on business profile, additional fees may apply for outgoing payments in excess of USD 50,000 a month
|Initial deposit amount||$HK 10,000||$HK 20,000||No minimum deposit|
|ATM withdrawal fee||HSBC group ATM Network: $HK20 per withdrawal
UnionPay: $HK 50
|HSBC ATM network: $HK 20 per withdrawal
UnionPay: $HK 40 > 5000 & $HK 60 < 5000
|Standard fee of: 1.99% of total + 1.5% conversion if withdrawing money overseas|
|Business debit/credit card maintenance fee||Platinum MasterCard Annual fee: $HK 550
Business debit card: Fee waived Replacement fee: $HK100
Annual fee: $HK 980 per card
Delivery by courier: $HK 250
|Included with each business account $HK 0 for activation
$HK 0 for virtual cards
$HK 0 for the first physical card.
Any additional physical cards will be charged HK$48/month.
|Overseas transaction fees||To HSBC offices in China: $HK 100
Elsewhere: $HK 125
|To Hang Seng branch in mainland China & Macau: $HK 85
Other accounts overseas or HK: $HK 115
|$HK 75 per transaction|
*Fees up to date as of 21st June 2022
**Time limited sign up promotion with lower or waived fees when meeting criteria
You might also need to keep a minimum balance to maintain the account.
If you're thinking of getting help to open a corporate bank account, you should be aware that many corporate service companies will charge you several thousand US dollars to assist you with the process. Not surprisingly, some of them have turned the source of frustration for SMEs into a profitable business...
If you are considering this option, it is essential to note that there is still no guarantee that you will successfully open a business account in Hong Kong. Remember to organize a way to get reimbursed in case of a rejection.
8. How long does it take to open a business account in Hong Kong?
Bank account opening can take quite a bit of time. Depending on the bank, you can expect it to take several weeks before your business bank account is up and running.
So what stages should you expect to go through to get the final okay?
It all starts with meeting a bank representative who will ask you to complete application forms and tell you to submit certain documents and information about your company's business nature.
Your application will then go through a review.
This review takes a minimum of several weeks, but don't be surprised if it drags on for a few months, during which time you may be asked to provide more supporting documents and explanations at any given time. As frustrating as it may be, it's important to remember that there is nothing you can do to accelerate the process.
The process ends with either a "yes" or "no" answer.
"No" is a commercial decision by the bank, and the bank will not give you a specific reason for their decision.
9. Benefits of a business bank account in Hong Kong
Assuming your company will be successful with its business bank account application, you may wonder what the common features and benefits you'll get with your account are.
Here are the perks:
- Online banking: you will be able to manage your banking affairs through the bank's digital platform. However, the online banking experience varies considerably from one platform to the other. It is worth checking the user-friendliness and features of a platform before applying for a corporate bank account to avoid any surprises.
- Multi-currency account: with Hong Kong being a financial hub in Asia, most business accounts are multi-currency. This feature is handy if your company receives and makes payments in different currencies, notably because it will help you save money on foreign exchange commissions.
Pitfalls to be aware of:
- Payment card: don't expect to receive a payment card that you can use wherever your business brings you. What you will get is a debit card you can use for local payments and ATM withdrawals in Hong Kong only.
- Poor customer support: Do you have a question about your account?
Call customer support at 8888 8888,
Listen to the long pre-recorded message, then dial #1 – dial #4 – dial #2 – dial #9, and
Expect a painfully long wait until you get a chance to talk to a real person.
10. Alternatives to business bank accounts
As financial technology (often shortened to fintech) becomes more popular, traditional banks are no longer the only option for bank account opening.
Therefore, if you're looking for an alternative to banks, you may want to consider Statrys to save time and money:
- Application is 100% online – open your account remotely, with no need to visit a branch
- 10 minutes of your time – skip your next coffee break, and you will have finished the application
- Quick response – guaranteed to hear back from us within 48 hours after the request is submitted.
- No account opening fee, no initial deposit, no minimum balance – our pricing plans are easy to understand and transparent. However, we may charge an account opening fee for certain companies raising compliance questions (doing business with a company registered on an exotic island has a cost!).
- Internet banking to manage your account.
- Phone, Wechat, WhatsApp, Live Chat – get in touch with a real person to answer your questions!
Don't make business banking a complicated process for your SME business. Sign up with Statrys today.
What are the required documents to complete the bank account opening form provided by the bank?
Why it's Difficult to Open a Business Bank Account in Hong Kong?
What are the types of bank accounts?