After you incorporate your Hong Kong company, the next important step is to open a bank account in Hong Kong.
There are many “opinions” online as to the steps for business bank opening in Hong Kong. Different TCSP service providers may also provide different types of supporting service.
But in this article, we’ll show you 5 steps on how to open a business bank account in Hong Kong as a foreigner, and how you can use banking services provided by a company formation agent.
The 5 steps to opening a business bank account in Hong Kong as a foreigner or non-resident:
After the company is registered, you need to research banking options in Hong Kong. While almost all banks in HK provide online banking service, banks in Hong Kong can have slightly different account opening fee, timeline and charges for international wire.
For example, some banks can transfer funds to Europe faster while some are more efficient in transmitting funds to Mainland China. Depending on your needs, foreigners should choose one which fit their business models and needs.
2. Contact the bank of your choice.
Once you confirm bank of your choice, you can contact the bank directly. For easy reference, we have already prepared a summary of all major banks’ contact details in Hong Kong. You can contact them by phone or email. Some banks may even ask you to fill out an application form online.
Some of our customers were reluctant to contact bankers via telephone calls. One of the reasons is that English is not their first language. However, you should note that English is also not the first language for most Hong Kong locals. So don’t be afraid of making the phone call. From our experience, bankers usually process applications faster if you can contact them over the phone.
3. Provide bank with your information.
Let’s take HSBC as an example. Assumed you contact them over the phone, HSBC will have a short phone interview with the director. During the phone call, they will try to understand your business nature, targeted jurisdictions and the purpose of having an account in Hong Kong.
Bankers are not in a position to judge whether your business model is successful. The purpose of the phone call is to understand the risk of taking you as their new customers. If bankers don’t find any significant concern of breaching the Anti-money laundering rules, they will let you know the list of documents they prefer to see and then they will arrange an appointment for you.
For those who are reading this article, I believe you are probably a business owner. You probably don’t mind taking difficult clients as long as you will receive good rewards for selling the service or products. However, if you have been an employee in your life, you will definitely understand employee does not think like an employer.
Most employees don’t want to take difficult cases or risky customers. People just want to finish their job, make no mistakes, leave work on time, get promoted or a salary adjustment by the end of the year. The same thing happens to most bankers in Hong Kong. No one wants to take difficult cases. So I have two tips for you.
When you talk to bankers in Hong Kong, you should simplify your business plan and business model. Bankers do not need to know every detail of your company. You just need to give relevant information, but you should never give too much.
To be clear, I am not telling you to lie. It is always good to be honest. However, foreigners shall understand how to avoid complicating things.
For example, bankers’ major concern is about your source of fund. Who are going to pay you? Or who are you going to pay? It goes without saying if you are paying or receiving funds from an UN sanctioned country, war zone or high risk money laundering jurisdictions, you are simply telling bankers to reject your application. So before you call the bank, make sure you prepare your script carefully.
Be specific with the countries you are going to deal with. Don’t just say funds will be from Asia. That is not enough. Asia can also mean North Korea. You should mention name of the countries. For example, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, etc.
Don’t exaggerate your business size or models. Provide accurate information and make sure you can provide supporting documents (if needed). Do not provide false information. I want to share an experience I had with one of my customers.
This incident happened a year ago but it is still relevant. I will name this customer “Abi”. It was first time for Abi to open a company. He was trying to trade fashion jewelry or low price jewelry from China to other markets.
Abi wanted to impress banker by claiming that he was wealthy and experienced in this field of business. So he told the banker that he intends to sell luxury jewelry. He also claimed that he has a work team in Dubai.
The Banker was impressed with Abi, but asked him to send proof of his claims after the interview. Of course, he didn’t have any evidence to back up his claims, but at this point, he couldn’t change his story; so he decided to contact another HSBC banker a week later. However, the other HSBC officer told Abi that his company background information has already been input in the bank record.
He had to provide the supporting documents as requested. Needless to say, Abi did not get his bank account approved. This experience demonstrates why you should never exaggerate your business size or model as banks will ask for supporting documents from time to time.
4. Setup an appointment date and fly to Hong Kong.
Before you arrange your flight to Hong Kong, you should make sure you receive the confirmation email from bank of your choice. In the email, they will state the venue, time and the person to meet with. The interview takes around an hour.
Customers must arrive the venue on time. If you are late for more than 15 minutes, the appointment may be cancelled. I must say that banks have busy schedule. Rescheduling can sometimes take up to a week. Hence, foreigners shall check how to get to the venue in advance and arrive on time.
5. Receive your banking device and company card.
After the account interview, you can leave Hong Kong and wait for the result. Once application is approved, banks will mail you the online banking device, company cards, and security code for login. Once you receive these information by mail, you have to do a bank wire or ATM deposit to activate the account.
As a reminder, foreigners are advised to activate the account within 2 weeks. In case there is any difficulty activating the account, you should contact your bank manager for assistance immediately.
Business Bank Opening in Hong Kong FAQs
1. What type of additional support is available for foreigners? Are these services really useful?
As I said at the beginning of the article, different TCSP service providers may provide different types of supporting service. With respect, I must say that not all of the services are suitable or useful for foreigners.
2. Should I ask my agent to fix an appointment date? Is it better to do it myself?
Business owners always want an extra hand to help in trivial matters so they can focus on doing important things. Many foreigners want someone to book the appointment for them. Unfortunately, I must say DON’T DO THIS. Making the call or filling in bank form is actually a very important step. Don’t rely on someone else. Here is the reason.
First, making the call or filling in application form is only about 10 – 15 minutes. Banks require information about your company business nature and business model. Depending on your answers, bankers may ask for different type of supporting documents. A slightly different answers can have a significant impact on what banker requires from you.
For example, do you have a business outside Hong Kong? Are you receiving the fund from your corporate account or personal account? Only you will know the answer the best. You can refer to step 3 for how wrong information can affect your application.
If the information you provided in the interview is different to the information your agent provided through telephone, that will cause you headache. Banks will ask for a separate document list. They may not be able to process your application immediately.
In worst case scenario, they may even ask you to visit HK again for a second interview. So, to play safe, you should call the bank and fill out the application yourself.
3. Should I make use of pre-screening service? How does it work?
Some TCSP agents provide more comprehensive support. If you must save the 10 minutes not calling the bank yourself, then you should go for full service for bank support. Some firms do not just arrange an appointment, but they ask a designated banker to conduct a pre-screening of your company documents.
In other words, you can prepare everything in advance. You only arrange your flight to Hong Kong until banker says YES. This service is usually more useful for foreigners as it can save time, hassle and worry.
4. Does it help to ask my secretary to accompany me to bank interview?
Some banks only allow directors to be in the meeting room while some are more flexible. If bank of your choice allows your company secretary to be there with you, you should always ask for that service. As I mentioned in step 3, bankers don’t like complicated clients. They prefer to hear “standard answers” from customers.
If you provide too much information or answers that are unfavorable to your application during the interview, your agent can correct you or guide you to the right track immediately.
For more information, you can contact one of our consultants at email@example.com for assistance.
5. What are the banking options in Hong Kong and bank contact details?
Many financial or banking institutions have operations in Hong Kong. Out of the 100 major banks, 70 of them have business activities in Hong Kong. I have listed out some banks as follows.
- Bank of China
- Bank of Communications
- Bank of East Asia
- China Citic International
- China Construction Bank
- Chiyu Bank
- Chong Hing Bank
- Dah Sing Bank
- Hang Seng Bank
- Nanyang Bank
- OCBC Wing Hang
- Public Bank
- Shanghai Commercial Bank
- Standard Chartered
- Wing Lung Bank
We’ve have also prepared a list of banks in HK complete with contact details.
I’d say almost all banks in Hong Kong provide very similar service. Almost all banks can provide multi-currency account. In other words, you can have USD, EUR, HKD, CNY, GBP in one account. Account usually comes with online banking and company cards.
There is one last important point for this article. When you contact bank of your choice, make sure you ask for an appointment in Hong Kong Island side. Ideally the interview venue should be in around Central Business District. Those branch centers are more experienced in dealing with foreigners. They usually have better English level than those in New Territories. You can refer our registered business address service for more information about Hong Kong districts.
Thank you for reading. If you have more questions, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org