Complete Guide to Open a Corporate Bank Account in Singapore

 

Congratulations! After weeks of preparation and incorporation procedures, you are finally done with the process of setting up a company in Singapore. The next natural step is generally opening a corporate bank account. While it may sound like a straightforward process, we have heard from countless clients desperately looking for help. Either they are frustrated by the rejections, or they have not engaged a one-stop professional service firm that assists with their bank account opening.

In the context of Singapore, to open a business account in Singapore (or corporate bank account) takes 1-2 weeks, depending on the complexity of your corporate structure. In Piloto Asia, we assist businesses from company incorporation to corporate bank account opening to payroll. In this article, we aim to share with you what we know about Singapore, from options available, preparation required, timeline expected, to ways of improving your success rate.

Piloto Asia can support to your corporate bank accounts opening in Singapore.

Should You Engage an Agent, or Do-It-Yourself

Opening a corporate bank account is an essential step in running a business. The same goes for choosing the right bank to partner with. Entering a new jurisdiction, one would generally lack the connections or context required to choose the right bank for them. Do-It-Yourself is always an option, but the time and rejections involved might not be worth the effort.

As a matter of fact, we have seen numerous helpless clients having their entities setup but not knowing how to open a corporate bank account. There are simply not enough accounting firms assisting and advising clients in this manner for commercial reasons and administrative trouble. We share your frustration. A good corporate service provider shall be able to recommend a right bank, help you avoid circulate loopholes and suggest the following:

  • Options available in Singapore

  • Recommended the right corporate bank with reference to your business

  • Pre-assessment: Preempt you with common questions from the bank and filter out an undesirable risk profile, increasing the success rate

  • Full preparation – From documentation to banker interview 

  • Logistics arrangement (A quick and easy 45-min process)

  • Account fee involved

  • How to increase the success rate

Major Corporate Banks for Singapore Companies

Common Commerical Banks for Singapore SMEs

There are more than 300 banks in Singapore, with a handful of them being active in the SME or corporate banking spaces. As a potential client, you might have a certain preference due to existing banking relationships in your current country of operation, familiarity with the Bank’s name from home, or preference based on prices.

In general, we have helped hundreds of newly incorporated Singapore companies to set up bank accounts with the following household names:

Development Bank of Singapore (DBS): Largest bank in Southeast Asia, with branches and offices in China, Hong Kong, UK, USA, India, Japan, Indonesia, UAE, South Korea, and across Southeast Asia.

Overseas-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC): OCBC Business Bank is the second largest bank in Southeast Asia. More than 570 branches across 18 countries.

United Overseas Bank (UOB): Third largest bank in Southeast Asia. Offices in more than 19 countries, a strong foothold in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and China.

CIMB Singapore: A leading focused ASEAN bank and one of the region’s foremost corporate advisors, CIMB Group is the fifth largest banking group by assets in ASEAN. Located in ASEAN’s global financial gateway, retail banking operations were launched in Singapore in September 2009.

Maybank: Southeast Asia’s fourth largest bank by assets. Maybank Group has an international network of 2,600 branches in 18 countries.

RHB Singapore Bank: Fully-licensed bank in Singapore, and part of RHB Bank Berhad, one of Malaysian largest banking groups.

ICICI Bank: Indian multinational banking and financial services company headquartered in Mumbai. Operating in Singapore since 2010 and has a strong network across India.

“High Risk” Industries and Nationalities for Singapore Banks

While the following list is not exhaustive, we find that, in general, clients operating in the following industries or trades are subject to more stringent anti-money laundering screenings by Banks. Not surprisingly, these are either highly cash intensive, industries susceptible to unknown sources of funds, or highly regulated finance-related activities. We would recommend clients operating in these industries consult their trading counterparts about the ease of banking operations before committing or setting up in Singapore:

  • Financial institutions

  • Cryptocurrency trading or broker

  • Gold trading

  • Pawn shops

  • Money lending

  • Online remittance

  • Online jewellery

Nationality-wise, companies with owners (or ultimate beneficiary owners UBOs) from sanctioned or restricted countries may face increased difficulty in having their accounts opened. From our years of experience working with banks in Singapore, below is a general list of ‘high-risk’ countries perceived by Singapore banks:

  • Russia

  • Ukraine

  • Cuba

  • Eastern Europe

  • UAE

  • Israel

  • Pakistan

  • South America

  • Sri Lanka

With the exception of above, we have faced little difficulty arranging business account openings for clients in other industries or nationalities.

Other Factors to Consider before Choosing a Corporate Bank in Singapore

After sorting out the bank’s reputation, trade specialization, your UBOs’ nationalities, and ease of operations with your key counterparts, the final consideration shall come down to fees, including initial deposit, accounting opening fee, and ongoing costs.

In general, Singapore banks charge somewhere between SGD 500-2,000 bank account opening fees, depending on the complexity of your corporate structure. Companies with simple structures (small capital, with 1-2 individual shareholders) would usually enjoy zero waivers on account opening fees depending on the type of corporate account you opt for.

In the table below, we summarize for you the key fees you could expect from top commercial banks in Singapore:

Participating Bank Account Opening Fee (Charged by Bank) Type of Accounts Inward Payment Fee Outward Payment Fee Fall Below Fee Minimum Balance Monthly Fee
UOB Free Multi currency account: SGD, USD, GBP, EUR, AUD, CAD, NZD, HKD, JPY, CHF $20.00 Cable $30.00+0.125% commission fee min $10, max $100 $35.00 $10,000.00 $35
CIMB Free SGD, USD, AUD, CAD, CHF, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD Free Cable $15 flat for CIMB BusinessGo Lite; $18.88 for CIMB BusinessGo N/A (for CIMB BusinessGo Lite only) N/A (for CIMB BusinessGo Lite only) Free for CIMB BusinessGo; $28 for CIMB BusinessGo Lite
RHB Free SGD Free Cable $30.00+0.125% commission fee min $10, max $50 $80.00 S$30,000.00 Free
HSBC USD 1,200.00 Multi currency account: SGD, USD, HKD, AUD, NZD, Pound, CND, JPY, CNY, EURO $10.00 Cable $30.00+0.125% commission fee min $20, max $100 $50.00 $30,000.00 $100.00
OCBC Free Multi currency account: SGD, AUD, CAD, GBP, HKD, NZD, CHF, EUR, JPY $10.00 Cable $25.00+0.125% commission fee min $10, max $100 $35.00 $5,000.00 Free
DBS $500.00 Multi currency account: SGD, AUD, CAD, CNH, EUR, HKD, JPY, NZD, NOK, GBP, SEK, CHF, THB, USD $10.00 Cable $ 20.00+0.125% commission fee min $10, max $120 $35.00 $10,000.00 $40.00
ICICI Annual maintenance fee of USD1500/USD2500/USD3500 for which
50/80/110 no. of free USD-USD remittances will be provided.
Multi currency account: SGD, USD, GBP, EUR & AUD Free Cable $10.00+0.125% commission fee min $10, max $100 N/A N/A Free
Maybank Free Multi currency: USD, EUR, GBP, AUD, NZD, CAD, HKD, JPY $10.00 Cable $20.00+0.125% commission fee min $20, max $100 + processing fees $35.00 $30,000.00 Free

Account Opening Checklist and Preparation

With an informed choice, it is time to get ready and prepare your corporate documents and your meeting with the banker (or trip to Singapore). We cannot emphasize more how important it is to be 100% prepared. Besides the full list of corporate documents and personal proof of source of income, you shall be ready to answer commonly asked bank account opening questions such as:

  • Nature of your business

  • How long has your firm existed (if there is a parent company)

  • Key trading countries - Both supplier and customer side

  • Your customer base

  • Expected turnover

  • Business plan

  • UBO and Director’s source of wealth

For corporate documents required, below is a full checklist you shall get ready before meeting the banker. Your company secretary or agent who has helped incorporate your company shall have the list handy and be able to facilitate.

For companies with individual shareholders only:

  • BizFile

  • Constitution, a.k.a. Memorandum and Articles of Association

  • Directors and ultimate shareholder’s ID documents and 3-month recent residential address proof. Acceptable ID proof is usually mean by NRIC for local Singaporeans and certified copies of passport for foreigners

  • A resolution by the company’s board of directors

Additional documents required for companies with corporate shareholder (subsidiaries):

  • Mother company’s equivalent of Business Profile, or Certificate of Incumbency

  • Certificate of Incorporation

  • Organization chart

  • Documents showing proof of business, such as existing bank statements of the parent company in the past three months, recent invoices or bill of lading, contracts, or recent year financial statements

Need help to open a corporate bank account in Singapore?

Contact us today to find out how Piloto Asia can support your business to open a business account.

 

Time Taken to Open Corporate Bank Account

This will vary by banks, and also by your corporate structure. For instance, if you have a complex shareholding structure involving three layers and above, with multiple beneficiaries, the process of account opening could be longer, and sometimes up to 2-3 weeks.

Whilst in other cases where your shareholders contained Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs), banks may be required to run further Know-Your-Customer checks with various anti-money laundering databases that would take additional time. On the other hand of the spectrum, if your company is registered with one or two individual shareholders, the account opening process shall be straightforward and shall take less than one week.

Typically, from our experience, most corporate account openings in Singapore shall take between 1-2 weeks. If in doubt, your bank RM or corporate service provider shall be able to facilitate and follow up.


Get Ready to Open a Corporate Bank Account

Is it wise to engage an agent to open a corporate bank account in Singapore? This is a very subjective question and would vary by client. For instance, you may already have a global or regional banking relationship where your home country’s RM could assist with your Singapore bank account needs. Others who lack the local connection and know-how about banking options available may opt for an agent. 

Many international banks in Singapore prefer to address an account opening application through a company service provider as they have good knowledge about local bank requirements and the client’s business profile, increasing the chance of success. A good service provider shall be able to provide high quality pre-screening, preempt banker interview queries, and facilitate the process end-to-end.

Piloto Asia has a long-standing and trusted relationship with most of the leading banking services providers, such as OCBC Bank, UOB Bank, DBS Bank, Maybank and RHB bank. International and local banks in Singapore have had a very positive experience with Piloto Asia due to our proper pre-assessment with clients. With our long history in the field, our close banking partners have facilitated and provided fast-track account opening procedures for our clients.

Typically, Piloto Asia clients enjoy a 45-min quick assessment in the comfort of our office, during which the bank’s relationship manager examines all your corporate documents and performs a simple interview. The case would then be submitted to the compliance officer, who would take between 1-2 weeks to access.

With proper preparation and introduction, your account opening process shall be efficient and fuzz-free.


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