Insights

Opening a bank account in Asia during a COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

If you have successfully incorporated your company in Asia during this pandemic – congratulations and a job very well done! The next biggest challenge is the opening of a bank account. It is an essential step as it facilitates your operation and all business transactions (including paying your employees or vendors).

During normal times, there are plenty of options available for any company when it comes to opening a corporate bank account. Most banks will be happy to assist as long as you pass the bank’s due diligence process, or commonly known as the KYC. The process includes showing up in person at the bank counters to verify your natural existence as a person, and providing all relevant original, or certified true copy, supporting documents requested by the bank.

In the current pandemic climate, however, it is not necessarily an easy task, or it is even impossible for some to achieve, mainly if you are not local, or residing in the country of interest itself.

Banks are reacting to this scenario very differently. Having helped multiple clients managed this process on a very frequent basis, we would like to share some of the changes we have come across, specifically concerning the essential requirements from the banks.

Proper documentation and proof of registration of the company

Company registration documents should be readily available if you work with a corporate services provider (CSP) while setting up your company. Your CSP will ensure you have the proper documentation in place.

Please note, however, that having your company registered with the authority and having a business registration number is not sufficient for most banks. Such identification does not tell the bank much about what your business does and the people running it.

Banks will require additional documents on a case-by-case basis, but the following list of documents will provide you with a good idea of what to anticipate and prepare in advance to back your account opening application. The documents bank will require include, but are not limited to:

  • Completed corporate account opening forms (signed by authorised signatories as per the board resolution)
  • Board of directors resolution authorising the opening of the account and the account signatories (to be prepared by your company secretary)
  • Certified true copy of the resolution authorising the opening of the account and the account signatories (most of the banks have their proprietary format, you will merely need to sign it)
  • Certified true copy of the certificate of incorporation (must be certified by a company secretary, an agent (e.g. legal firm) or one of the directors)
  • Certified true copy of the company’s business profile from the Company Registrar (must be certified by a company secretary, an agent (e.g. legal firm) or one of the directors)
  • Certified true copy of the company’s Memorandum and Articles of Association (must be certified by a company secretary, an agent (e.g. legal firm) or one of the directors)

Given that signatory is required at some point, some banks will require additional verification steps to ensure the signatures or documents are legitimate before accepting the documents.

For example, if your new entity is a foreign branch office, some banks will require the corporate and other supporting documents of the parent firm with a wet signature to be certified as a true copy at the country of origin (by a lawyer or a certified public accountant). Individual banks may even require the documents to be notarised by a notary public as a double assurance.

Proof of identification

Proof of your nationality can be your passport, or a certified or notarised copy of your passport. This document is necessary as most banks are sensitive to specific nationalities, particularly those from sanctioned countries, or an individual with a history of involving in sensitive activities.

Today, some banks have taken the extra measures to further verify the identification documents by hosting a video conference with the individual. Even though the provided copy is certified as true, the banks will want to see both the original document and the applicant’s face next to the proof of identification picture.

This procedure is believed to substitute the meeting in person procedure adopted by most banks. Due to security reasons, however, some banks have yet to adopt the use of such a communication tool for their onboarding process. Hence in-person verification is still required.

Proof of residential address

For each of the company’s shareholders, ultimate beneficial owners, and directors, they will need to provide some form of documentation displaying information of the place of residency of each. Such a document can be a country/national ID, latest tax returns filing, invoices from utility or telco firms usually not older than three months from the date of application.

Currently, some banks require this documentation to undergo the same verification procedures as per the corporate documents; hence an additional cost is incurred to the applicant for having to get these CTC and notarised.

Conclusion

Depending on the risk factor, banks have custom measures in place to help them evaluate and assist their clients the best they can and have the account open as soon as possible.

Results and request will vary between banks, but the purpose of this article is to share some of the changes in procedures and requirements for opening a bank account in the region.

Information presented here is for general guidance only, further verification with the banks will be encouraged. If you should require any assistance, please feel free to reach out to us any time.

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About Acclime.

As a regional expert provider of corporate services, Acclime helps corporates and private clients seamlessly advance their businesses and interests in difficult-to-navigate markets in Asia and beyond. Our years of in-market experience and deep knowledge helps our clients to avoid pitfalls and make progress faster.

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