How to open a business bank account in Hong Kong

08.05.17
6 minute read
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Hong Kong has been listed as the world’s most economically free place for the last 22 years according the the global Index of Economic Freedom. If you’re planning on opening a company in Hong Kong, you'll find relatively low taxation, an advanced financial and services sector and a business friendly administration. What more could you wish for?

One of the first things you'll need to make sure your company runs smoothly, is a business bank account. Check out this simple guide to see how to open a new business bank account in Hong Kong.

What types of corporate entities exist in Hong Kong?

The most common corporate entities used in Hong Kong are:

  • Limited liability company
  • Partnership
  • Sole proprietorship
  • Foreign company office (for existing businesses looking to set up a Hong Kong subsidiary)

The type of entity that will work best for you depends on the nature of your business. If you're at all unsure, Hong Kong based agencies such as Hawksford can help advise you for a fee.

Can I open a business bank account in Hong Kong with a foreign corporate entity?

Technically you can open a business bank account in Hong Kong with a foreign corporate entity. However, as Hong Kong has very strict anti-fraud laws, some banks may be reluctant to allow this. If you have a foreign registered company you may be asked to attend a face-to-face interview with the bank to discuss the nature of your business as part of this due diligence process.

What’s the process for opening a business bank account in Hong Kong?

Opening a business bank account in Hong Kong can take two to three weeks and usually requires all relevant people (directors, major shareholders and nominees) to visit the bank in person. If you or other company owners will be visiting Hong Kong specifically for the purpose of opening an account, it may be worth working with an agency in advance to help assemble the documents needed.

Each bank will have its own account opening process and list of documents required. However, you can expect to be asked for the following:

  • Company documents to prove your business is properly registered (depending on the type of entity, you may be asked to provide a Business Registration Certificate, a Certificate of Incorporation or Articles of Association)
  • Proof of identity and address for all directors, shareholders and nominees - usually a photo ID such as a passport, along with a recent utility bill
  • Evidence of your business activity, such as previous banking history or business plan

Some banks will ask for the above documents to be certified, and/or translated if they originate from overseas. You may also be asked to provide proof of the ultimate beneficiary owners or shareholders of the business, even if they'll not have access to the account.

It's a good idea to call the bank in advance and ask for an appointment. They'll tell you which documents are required, and whether you need to visit a specific business banking centre to get started.

Can I open a business bank account as a non-resident?

It's possible to open an account in Hong Kong as a non-resident, but the range of options available will depend on where your business is registered.

Can I open a business bank account from abroad?

Hong Kong banks usually follow very strict procedures around account opening, and ask for all relevant parties to attend the bank in person. However, one option if you’re not in Hong Kong but need to open an account, is to choose a bank with a global presence.

It may then be possible to attend a bank branch local to you to complete the relevant documentation, with a member of your local branch staff acting as witness on behalf of the Hong Kong bank.

Can I open a business bank account online?

Although you can start the account opening process online, and access application documents via the web, you'll need to present documents at a branch in person.

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Which bank should I choose?

Hong Kong has a sophisticated financial sector and a wide range of local and international banks. All offer slightly different products, but you're likely to find something to suit your needs among the larger institutions listed below.

HSBC

As well as being a global banking superpower, HSBC is the largest bank in Hong Kong. They offer two corporate current accounts, the BusinessVantage and the BusinessVantage Plus. Accounts can be opened with a single visit to the HSBC business banking centre. If approved, you should be up and running with payments cards, PINs and everything needed within a couple of days.

Hang Seng Bank

Part owned by the HSBC group, Hang Seng Bank is Hong Kong’s second largest local retail bank. They offer two different business accounts to suit different types of entities, and offer discounts to those who use primarily internet based banking services. Hang Seng also offers businesses other financial products such as loans and investment tools.

Bank of China (Hong Kong)

Bank of China (Hong Kong) is a local arm of the Chinese banking giant of the same name. They offer a wide range of banking services for business, which cover companies at all stages and in all industries. Although the documentation and detail required to open an account can seem complex, the specific information needed for each type of account is set out very clearly (in both English and Chinese) on the bank website.

Standard Chartered Bank

Standard Chartered Bank is an international bank with their headquarters in Hong Kong. Customers here have access to a broad branch and ATM network across the country and region. In addition, in Hong Kong they have two dedicated business banking centres where you can get help opening your account.

Banking fees and charges

Before you open your business bank account in Hong Kong, it's important to read the terms and conditions carefully - especially the section on banking fees and charges.

It’s common to find monthly account handling charges and fixed fees for banking transactions. In some cases, business bank accounts set low monthly fees but allow you to make only a limited number of free transactions per month before being charged. In other cases there are steep monthly fees if you don’t maintain a specified minimum balance in the account. Think carefully about how you'll use the account before you commit - even when these fees look small, they can build up over time.

From time to time, most businesses need to make international money transfers - for example, to pay suppliers based overseas. Your bank might not offer the best deal on this type of transaction. This can be a costly headache, so it’s worth paying special attention to the fees applied. If your bank’s exchange rate is lower than the real mid-market rate, then you’re paying more in fees than necessary.

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