Opening a corporate bank account in Hong Kong

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and why it could be easier.

Once you have decided to base your business in Hong Kong, the next step for many is to set up a business bank account. Hong Kong is a banking mecca.

As of December 2020, in Hong Kong there were: 

  • 161 licensed banks
  • 17 restricted licence bank
  • 12 deposit‑taking companies, and
  • Forty-three representative offices of overseas banks. 

There are also dozens of businesses providing business account, currency exchange and payment services through possession of a Money Service Operator licence or  an Electronic Money Institution (EMI) licence (read more about these unbanked solutions below). 

Here we explain everything you need to know about setting up a corporate bank or business account in Hong Kong.

Why should I get a Hong Kong corporate bank account?

There are three key situations where a company might seek a Hong Kong business bank account

  1. The business proposition in question is an investment fund, which requires that the money be based on Hong Kong. For example, a relatively new Hong Kong  business structure, the ‘limited partnership fund’ (LPF), allows private equity funds to be set up and registered in Hong Kong  to facilitate the movement and investment  of capital both in that region and internationally. As this is a vehicle specifically for the movement of money, a Hong Kong bank account will be required
  2. The business is a large multinational that seeks a Hong Kong presence, alongside its other international locations
  3. A solo entrepreneur or small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) wishes to open up a business based in Hong Kong, or seeks tax advantages from doing so. 

Note, a corporate bank account can be opened in Hong Kong without actually incorporating a company in Hong Kong. Non-Hong Kong companies that have registered a branch in Hong Kong are eligible to open a corporate bank account (though note, in banks may be more wary of approving the opening of these accounts).  

What should I look for in a Hong Kong corporate bank account?

While the services required in a Hong Kong bank or business account will differ depending on the business in question, businesses often look for the following::

  • Checking and interest-bearing accounts
  • Multi-currency accounts
  • Payment services
  • Trade financing
  • Business loans
  • Payment cards, credit cards and checkbooks
  • Currency exchange
  • FX trading. 

What documentation must be submitted to open a corporate bank account? 

Hong Kong law places a range of ‘due diligence’ requirements on banks to ensure that all those opening a bank account (a), have a right to do so and (b),  are not engaging in money laundering or other illegal activity.

These requirements, which have been strengthened in recent years, make it much harder to open a bank account in Hong Kong than it used to be. In order to ensure that it is not itself liable, the bank does as much as it can to ensure that corporate bank accounts are ‘legitimate’. 

 To this end, the following documentation is required: 

  • A certified copy of the company's ‘Certificate of Incorporation’ 
  • A certified copy of the company’s ‘Business Registration Certificate’ (BRC)
  • A copy of the board resolution approving the opening of the corporate bank account
  • Evidence that a real business exists, such as audited financial statements, and a business plan setting out projected revenue and expenses over the next 12 months
  • Where directors/shareholders are present, evidence of valid visas
  • Proof of address (whether in Hong Kong or overseas)
  • A director declaration providing the details of principal  directors and  shareholders  — shareholders that exercise 10% or more of the voting rights in the company
  • Copy of identification documents for directors
  • In the case of corporate shareholders, an organizational chart showing shareholdings and identifying the ultimate beneficiaries in any trust or similar structure, as well as a certified copy of the trust deed where it exists
  • An initial minimum deposit
  • Physical presence. Most Hong Kong banks require that account signatories and principal directors and shareholders be physically present in Hong Kong. Some banks may allow the opening of an account without these requirements being met, for example, where the documents are signed at one of the bank's overseas branches.

What do local Hong Kong banks generally offer? 

When setting up a bank account in Hong Kong, businesses have two key choices: A), they can set up a corporate bank account with a local Hong Kong bank; B), they can set up a corporate bank account with an international bank that has a presence in Hong Kong. We consider the common features of each type of account: 

  • Hong Kong Dollar (HKD) and foreign currency accounts
  • An initial deposit of between HKD $5,000 and 50,000 for both local and foreign accounts
  • A requirement to maintain  an average monthly balance of a certain figure, otherwise a monthly fee is payable
  • ATM and credit cards
  • A default ATM withdrawal limit of HKD $20,000
  • Unlimited Internet transfers
  • Trade finance
  • Accounts receivable and accounts payable services 
  • An account setup fee of between HKD $100 and $150. 

What do international banks based in Hong Kong generally offer? 

Common features of corporate bank accounts offered by international banks in Hong Kong include: 

  • HKD and foreign currency accounts
  • An initial deposit of between HKD $0 and $10,000
  • An average monthly balance of a set amount or a monthly fee
  • ATM, credit cards, and checkbooks
  • Unlimited Internet transfers
  • Trade finance
  • Business loans. 

Are there alternatives to corporate bank accounts in Hong Kong? 

The detailed due diligence and ‘presence’ requirements enforced by banks in Hong Kong for opening accounts mean that, more than ever, businesses in Hong Kong need to question whether they genuinely need a  corporate bank account, or whether an alternative will suffice. 

As a world fintech hub, there are now many ‘unbanked’ business account solutions available in Hong Kong, particularly for SMEs that do not need many of the more complicated services of large banks.  These fintech can offer multi-currency accounts, payment cards, and many other popular SME services without requiring that businesses go through as many steps as are required to set up a corporate bank account. 

85% of our customers open their account in less than 3 days.

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