Singapore is famous for its robust financial system and its dynamic business environment. It is no wonder why it is a preferred choice for international companies to set up their headquarters in the Asia Pacific region. Additionally, its diversified banking system has attracted major banks from all over the world, enhancing, even more, the international commerce between Singapore, Southeast Asia, and the world.
Now, with such a wide offer of banking services from different institutions, both local and international, how can an entrepreneur or an international business person choose the best business account to cover their needs? In this article, we will try to answer this question and share some other considerations about the banking system of Singapore. But first, let's have a quick review of the banking legislation.
Banking Legislation in Singapore
In Singapore, the Banking Act of 1970 is the governing legislation that regulates the licensing of banking institutions in the country. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), is the government organ that enforces this regulation and grants licenses to local banks, as well as the branches of international banks, to operate in Singapore.
According to Regulating Authority, there are 4 categories of institutions that take deposits, these are the following:
- Full banks: these institutions can offer a wide range of financial services, such as insurance, capital and brokerage, financial advisory services, as well as opening accounts, taking deposits, and lending services. Local banks have different requirements from the branches of international banks.
Qualified Fully Bank (QFB): in the case of foreign banks, there is this distinction that allows them to have a more relaxed approach when dealing with local banks for certain debit services, as well as the relocation of their branches.
- Wholesale banks: banks that fall under this category can carry out the same banking activities as full banks. However, they do not engage in banking that involves retail activities for individuals, only for businesses. Additionally, there is a prohibition on realizing non-financial activities, such as financial advisory services.
- Merchants banks: this category of banks is allowed to perform limited activities with a person in Singapore or elsewhere. These are deposit-taking activities and banking activities. Any other activity outside the mentioned scope is not permitted.
- Financial Institutions: a financial institution follows a different regulation from the Banking Act. The regulation that governs this institution is the Finance Companies Act. Moreover, the allowed activities of this institution fall under two sections: deposit-taking activities and lending activities to individuals and small and medium companies.
📖 Read more on the list of the top 5 banks in Singapore
What is a Business Bank Account?
Normally, known as a corporate bank account, or in simple terms a business account, it is a kind of account solely used to separate the transactions of your business. In this sense, you can keep a better record of the cash flow generated from your business, and the expenses generated from the operations, this means the incomes and outcomes of money.
It is important to mention that from an accounting perspective and to reduce legal liability, it is always advisable to operate a business through its account, rather than through a personal account since some conflict could arise between the bank user terms and the user of the account. A banking institution has the right to suspend its services at any point if there is suspicion of malpractice from the users.
Now that we have a clearer idea of what a business account is, we should discuss some of the considerations that should be kept in mind when choosing a banking institution that will provide the corporate bank account service for your company. More details will be shown below.
What to Consider Before Choosing a Business Account
As we have mentioned at the beginning of the article, there are multiple service providers for bank accounts in Singapore. Nevertheless, it is important to mention some general aspects before becoming a client with a specific bank. Here we will enlist some of our thoughts and considerations:
- Types of business accounts: some banks have different requirements and services that adjust better for a specific type or size of a company. For example, the OCBC business growth account is specifically tailored for startups or new businesses. For more details, you can consult with OCBC Bank.
- Minimum monthly balance: some bank accounts will require a minimum balance each month. If the balance of the account goes down from this requirement, there might be some charges for using the account, until the minimum balance is restored.
- Minimum initial deposit: as part of the opening process, some banks might require an initial deposit to activate the account. Depending on the institution, this fee might be used as part of the application process and can be deemed as not refundable if the opening application fails.
- Business multi-currency account: being an internal center of commerce, banks in Singapore normally offer multiple currency accounts, some of them with a wider variety. For example, there is the DBS business multi-currency account offered by DBS bank with access to 13 major currencies.
- Internet banking: online banking has caught up with the majority of banks in Singapore. Since one of the official languages in Singapore is English, the language barrier won't be a problem, and the banking applications and the web platforms are quite user-friendly.
- Monthly account fees and transactions fees: depending on the account that was chosen, and the institution, there might be additional charges according to the use and maintenance of the account. Some banks charge monthly fees to keep up the account. Additionally, there might be some charges for transfers to other accounts.
- Perks of corporate bank accounts: as part of the benefits of opening business banking accounts, some banks might grant individuals related to the company a business debit card or even a business credit card that can be used internationally.
- Information disclosure: As part of the process of opening the bank account some information might be needed to be disclosed to the bank authorities such as identity documents and address proof of the people who own the company, the directors, and in the case that the owners are a corporate entity, the ultimate beneficial owners, as well as documents supporting the transactions of the parent company. Additionally, some of the people involved might need to be ready to travel to Singapore for the bank interview process, which in most cases is a must.
Alternative to Traditional Business Accounts
As an alternative, there is a growing trend of opening an account online through a financial institution that offers similar services to those services offered by banks, with the only difference being that all is done through its platform on the internet.
Statrys is one example of these institutions that offer a quick payment solution through its platform that saves you all the hassle from the opening process of an account with a bank.
Some of the features include multi-currency payments, debit cards, and attractive foreign exchange rates.
If you are ready to start opening a bank account in Singapore, feel free to read our guide.
As we have seen in this article, there are many factors to consider when choosing a banking institution or a financial platform, that can help you to fulfill the needs of your business. Luckily, Singapore is the perfect location to take the time to evaluate all the services offered by the different institutions located in the country. Furthermore, thanks to its business-friendly policies, entrepreneurs and startups have the chance to explore accounts tailored to their needs with low requirements and fees.
Opening a bank account can be a lengthy and time-consuming process, so it is important to make an informed decision when choosing a bank as a partner. It is always advisable to do some research and reach out to some experts that can help you to make this important decision for your business.