Open a Business Bank Account in Hong Kong in 2022

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    Are you starting a new business in Hong Kong, or do you already have an established business you want to expand into 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: opening a business bank account in Hong Kong is not an easy task, especially for new Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs). 

    Be prepared to invest time and possibly money, with no guarantee that you will have an account opened in the end.

    Thankfully, we have gathered the commonly asked questions and answers to help you make the process as seamless as possible.

    Opening a Business Bank Account in Hong Kong Overview

    1. Banking options in Hong Kong
    2. Types of Bank Accounts
    3. What are some of the required documents needed to open a business bank account?
    4. Can you open an account as a company operating outside Hong Kong?
    5. Is it possible to open a business account online?
    6. What are the costs of opening a business bank account?
    7. How long does it take to open a business account? 
    8. Benefits of a business bank account in Hong Kong
    9. Why is it so difficult to open an account in Hong Kong?
    10. Alternatives to business bank accounts

    1. Banking options in Hong Kong

    It’s no secret that Hong Kong is one of the largest financial hubs in Asia, with around 200 registered financial institutions

    The majority of these financial institutions are operating as fully licensed banks, restricted-license banks, deposit-taking entities or are representational branches for well-known overseas banks. Some popular local and international banks you’ll come across include:

    Local 

    • HSBC
    • OCBC Wing Hang 
    • Bank of China (Hong Kong)
    • Bank of East Asia
    • Standard Chartered
    • Hang Seng Bank 

    International

    • DBS Bank 
    • CitiBank
    • DSBC Bank
    • KBC Bank  
    • Barclays 

    If you do need to open a personal or business account in Hong Kong, you definitely have options. So what’s the catch?

    Although SMEs bank account services are a huge market for many banks in Hong Kong, opening an account is only getting more difficult. 

    There’s no time to waste, let’s get started on some things you need to know to open a business bank account in Hong Kong.

    2. Types of Bank Accounts

    When you are 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 opened under the name of a company and is used to manage business finances.

    Some banks also refer to this as a corporate bank account or a commercial bank account.

    We will also use the terms synonymously throughout this article, so you remember when it comes time to start your corporate account application.

    Why must we clarify this point?

    First, you must use the correct terminology when applying for an account.

    Second, too many entrepreneurs are carrying out the business of their company using a personal bank account, i.e. an account opened under their name.

    This is a recipe for disaster, as when the time comes to do company accounting, they run the risk of having to pay both corporate and personal taxes. 

    An unnecessary and avoidable expense, if we do say so ourselves.

    3. What are some of the required documents needed 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 own pre-requisites of what you need to give to them and how you need to submit the required documents. However, you will find that there are 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 opening 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. 

    Below are a few useful links for some popular banks in Hong Kong:

    This form is usually the easiest thing to organize, as you will then have to gather a variety of other necessary documents to accompany this form.

    Different banks have different requirements, but the list of documents usually consists of the following:

    • A resolution by the board of directors: the purpose of this resolution is to approve the bank account opening and give one person the authority to handle the application with the bank.
      Insider tip: The usual practice is to provide power to one of the directors of the company.
    • Establishment documents: all documents proving that your company was duly incorporated and validly registered. For a Hong Kong company, this includes the certificate of incorporation, a valid business registration certificate, and the articles of association.
    • Corporate chart: a chart showing the shareholding and management structure of the company. This chart must present on one page who the directors, the shareholders, and the ultimate beneficial owners of the company are. It must also show the percentage of ownership of each shareholder in the company. Click to learn more here.
    • ID documents: a copy of the ID documents (passport, ID 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 evidence of residency must indicate the residence address and usually be dated no more than three months. For more information, click here.
    • Business plan: a simplified business plan explaining the company’s business, and that gives projections of the company’s expenses and revenues for the coming 12 months.
    • A Certificate of Incumbency and Certificate of Good Standing for offshore companies. Not sure what this means, check out more about the Certificate of Incumbency here.

    Typically, some of the documents must be certified by a lawyer, a public notary, a certified public accountant, or a company secretary.

    All these professionals will very likely charge you for their service.

    So, you should check with the bank that it is satisfied with the content and format of the document before arranging for its certification.

    This will save you the cost of paying twice.

    4. How to open a business account for companies outside Hong Kong?

    It’s perfectly legal for a company registered outside of Hong Kong to apply for a business bank account in Hong Kong.

    It is also perfectly possible for non-residents to apply for an account.

    However, banks will often be reluctant to open a bank account for a non-Hong Kong-registered company.

    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 bank account is especially questionable when the company is from some exotic location known for its lack of transparency.

    If you have business opportunities in the region, you may consider coordinating with a company set up in Hong Kong already, or have one of your shareholders become a resident.

    This would make your life easier with the banks and leave you with more time to focus on your business endeavors.

    5. 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 are now offering 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 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.

    Banks have application forms they want you to sign, lists of documents, and information they want you to provide.

    Simply put, do your homework before visiting the bank (check their website/give them a call), or you’ll end up traveling to the most expensive city in the world just to hear a bank representative explain the process to you!

    6. What are the costs of opening a business bank account in Hong Kong?

    You should be prepared to pay, at minimum, an account opening fee, and initial deposit.

    It’s impossible to tell the exact cost of opening a business bank account.

    Even giving a range is difficult 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 comparison 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 Accounts in Hong Kong

    Fees*

    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 


    Thereafter: 


    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 50,000


    $HK 200 if TRP is less than 50,000 after 24 months



    $HK 88 per month


    Based on business profile, additional fees may apply for outgoing payments in excess of USD50,000 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 

    Applied separately


    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 115 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 in the account to maintain the account

    If you’re thinking of getting help to open a corporate 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, what has become a source of frustration can now be a profitable business for others.

    If you are considering this option, it is important 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.

    7. How long does it take to open a business account in Hong Kong?

    Opening a business bank account can take quite a bit of time. Depending on the bank, you can expect it to take several months before your business bank account is up and running.

    So what are the stages you should 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.

    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 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.

    8. 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 some of the common features and benefits you’ll get with your account. 

    Here are the perks:

    • Online banking: you will be able to manage your banking affairs through the digital platform of the bank. However, user-friendliness and features vary considerably from one platform to the other. It is worth checking the platform before applying for a bank account to avoid any surprises.
    • Multi-currency account: with Hong Kong being a financial hub in Asia, most business bank 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 FX commission margins.

    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: 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 waiting time until you get the chance to talk to a real person.

    9. Why is it difficult to open a business bank account in Hong Kong?

    Largely, 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).

    In short, banks must know who their clients are and monitor their transactions.

    Keeping track of clients is undoubtedly a good thing.

    However, as these compliance rules get more strict and complex every year, applying them is increasingly costly for banks, where 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 banks, and therefore banks are less keen to make the process easy for SMEs to open accounts.

    Are you getting the full picture?

    Costs are on the rise, and the significant risk of fines, means banks are becoming less and less interested in serving your SME business.

    This trend isn’t specific to Hong Kong, yet Hong Kong has become one of the countries where it’s most challenging to open a bank account.

    It's a mix of regulations and an aging financial system.

    The business community and local regulators of Hong Kong have even asked banks to address the problem.

    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 opening a bank account.

    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 – 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!).
    • 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. Kick traditional banking to the curb.

    FAQs

    What are the required documents to complete the bank account opening form provided by the bank?

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