How to open a business bank account in Singapore

06.03.17
5 minute read
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Singapore has long been known as a financial hub in Asia, and the small republic has recently been experiencing a surge in financial innovations. Recent not-so-sunny reports about the lack of economic growth in Singapore have made banks aware of the necessity for collaboration with entrepreneurs and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) to accelerate growth in the region.

By attracting top talent, especially in the Fintech sector, Singapore is welcoming more and more international businesses to the republic, and banks in Singapore are becoming easier to work with. Overall, opening a corporate bank account is a quick and simple process. Read on for information about what business types are welcome, the process for opening an account, and a rundown of which banks to consider.

What are the typical corporate entities in Singapore?

Many types of businesses are based in Singapore, including Limited Liability Companies (LLCs), sole proprietorships, and partnerships.

Foreign companies looking to establish a formal presence in the republic have two options:

1. Create a subsidiary company
A subsidiary company is a private, limited company that is incorporated in Singapore, whose parent company is a shareholder. This option makes the most sense for small and mid-sized companies.

2. Open a branch office
A parent company can open a branch office registered in Singapore instead of creating a separate entity as in the option above. However, in this option, the liabilities of the branch office are extended to the parent company.

Can I open a corporate bank account in Singapore with a foreign corporate entity?

Singapore is home to many of the world’s major banks, and in general they will be happy to open a corporate account for any any entity, whether Singapore or offshore, as long as the correct paperwork has been submitted and is satisfactory.

What‘s the process for opening a corporate account, and what documents will I need?

While the process for opening an account is fairly easy, most banks will require the account signatories and the company’s majority directors to be physically present in Singapore to sign paperwork at the time of opening. However, some of the larger international banks, like HSBC and Citibank, will allow you to sign the necessary documents at one of their overseas branches, or in the presence of a notary.

While the exact required paperwork varies from bank to bank, typically you’ll need the following:

  • Completed Corporate Account Opening Forms, signed by signatories.
  • A Board of Directors Resolution, sanctioning the account opening and the established signatories to open it on behalf of the company. This must be prepared by your company’s secretary.
  • A certified true copy of Resolution, sanctioning the account opening and the signatories to open the account on behalf of the company. This is typically a standard form created by the bank that must be signed.
  • A certified true copy of Certificate of Incorporation, certified by a company director.
  • A certified true copy of Company’s Business Profile from Company Registrar.
  • A certified true copy of the company’s Memorandum and Articles of Association (MAA).
  • Certified copies of the Passports or Singapore ICs, as well as residential address proof of the directors, signatories, and ultimate beneficiary owners.

If you’re physically present in Singapore, the bank will typically be happy to make copies for you if you bring originals.

Can I open a business bank account from overseas?

Yes, you can open a business bank account from overseas. While many banks will require your presence, some will not. However, companies incorporated in Tax Haven Countries will need to provide a Certificate of Incumbency that is less than one year old. Companies incorporated in other jurisdictions, such as the USA, UK, or Indonesia, will need to submit an official document from the Government and/or the Registrar of Companies.

If you’re opening an account from outside of Singapore, all documents must be signed in the presence of the bank’s staff at an international branch, a notary public, or the High Commissioner of Singapore.

Additionally, all documents must be submitted in English. It’s the company’s responsibility to ensure that translation is correct. The company will also need to produce the original passport of all authorised signers, Directors, and Ultimate Beneficial Owners for the bank staff to verify.

Can I open a business bank account online?

Yes.  Some banks, including DBS, will allow you to complete the process of opening a business bank account entirely online, however these account types will often be somewhat limited. Many of the banks that don’t require your physical presence will still require either a phone interview or your presence at an international branch.

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Which bank should I choose?

While there are many banks to choose from in Singapore, some of the most reputable for business bank accounts include local banks such as:

DBS Bank

DBS’s setup fees can be anywhere from S$500 to S$1,000, however these fees can be waived on a case by case basis at the bank’s discretion. DBS requires a minimum deposit of S$3000- S$8,000 depending on the account type. Account holders must also maintain a monthly or average daily balance of S$50,000. An account with DBS comes with a debit card, credit card, checkbook, and access to online banking.

OCBC Bank

OCBC typically requires the executive director, as well as an authorized signatory, to be present to open an account. However, an account at OCBC does not carry a setup fee-- just a monthly account fee of $38, which is waived for the first three months. The bank account must hold S$5000 per month.

Some international banks that are trusted for corporate banking include:

What types of banking fees are there?

Opening any bank account comes with a wide range of standard fees. Business accounts in Singapore are most notorious for reinforcing their minimum balances, which rage from S$5000 to S$10000 depending on which bank you choose, with “fall-below” fees that can be up to S$50. You’re likely to also face annual account fees or even monthly account fees.

For foreigners doing business in Singapore, it’s often important to keep an eye on foreign transfer fees. With bigger banks, these fees aren’t as high. DBS, for example, charges anywhere from S$10-120 on foreign transfers and in OCBC the range is S$25-70.

However, if you’d like to avoid these international charges at all, consider using TransferWise to fund your business bank account from overseas. TransferWise uses the real mid-market exchange rates to convert your money from one currency to another. That means that, unlike a regular bank transfers, there’s no hidden markup on the currency conversion rate. And because TransferWise receives and sends your money via local bank transfers in both Singapore and overseas, those international fees are cut out entirely.

All in all, opening a business banking account in Singapore should be a fairly a painless process with plenty of options for choosing the right account for your business.

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