The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) is the government authority in Hong Kong responsible for maintaining monetary and banking stability. It is the regulator of the banking system and in the Hong Kong context performs many of the tasks that would normally be undertaken by a central bank.
As such, banks follow the guidelines set out by the HKMA and legislation enacted by the HKSAR Government in respect of banking activities.
To assist businesses to open and maintain banking facilities, HKMA has established a web information service for businesses as a referral point for guidelines on account opening, rejection of applications, ongoing maintenance and news/updates etc. Links to these web pages are detailed below. Note that these are guidelines and banks will implement these guidelines individually.
Hong Kong is open for business!
As an international business centre, Hong Kong is the ideal location for business to establish a presence in Asia. Hong Kong is a dynamic city with strong growth; is a gateway to opportunities in Mainland China; and it’s a regional base for activity across Asia. Many companies see Hong Kong as the first choice for business expansion.
An issue critical to successful business operations is the ability to access mature and reliable banking facilities with a range of cash management, trade finance, funding and other support provisions. As is the case in many jurisdictions, these facilities are provided subject to guidelines issued by the banking regulator. So when establishing a relationship with a new banker, businesses need to mindful that there will be a requirement to conform to various criteria.
In general, most prominent Hong Kong banks provide details of account opening on their websites. Each bank will have its own procedural requirement for account opening, risk assessment and account profitability assessment. In general, new clients will be required to: (1) establish their bona fides; (2) provide the bank with details of their business activities; and (3) submit required documentation. It is recommended that prior to any approach to a bank, businesses should research the needs of the chosen bank and be prepared for interview and/or documentation requests. There will also be a need to prepare for continued liaison with the bank to support ongoing maintenance of an account and it is advised that businesses be pro-active in this respect e.g. advising their bank if there is about to be any material change in the value or nature of transactions passing through the account.
Banks will want to be confident of new applications and will seek detailed “Know You Customer” or “KYC” information, which may comprise: understanding the purpose, nature and activity level of a business; background and identity verification of directors and beneficial owner; verification of authority to operate accounts e.g. board minutes; understanding the sources of income and intended purpose of the account. Much of this information will be sought in the form of copies of company documents, official documents and personal interviews.
It should be noted that banks will require at least one director or shareholder to be physically present at the Bank’s offices in Hong Kong to attend an account opening interview. Documents relating to other all directors (and possibly shareholders or beneficial owners) which may include passport or ID card copies (certified true and correct if the original is not available), proof of residential address, Certificates of Incorporation, Business Registration Certificates etc. will be mandatory requirements. Businesses with no physical presence in Hong Kong will likely undergo stringent enquiry as to the reasons a Hong Kong domiciled bank account is necessary.
It ‘s likely to take time for the bank to process any new account application, so don’t expect to have a cheque book in your hands at the conclusion of the first interview! Some banks operate to time-frames and will undertake to complete diligence reviews within a set time.
Banks may offer an appointment service via online booking facility. Make use of such service to aid good use of time and ensure you have all required documentation (as detailed on the appropriate website) before attending the meeting. Copies of official documents should be certified as “true and correct” by a certified accountant or notary to avoid any delay in processing.
Above all, be prepared!
Below, we have invited banks to submit a brief summary of their welcome to receive new business account applications with web links as appropriate. NZCCHK does not recommend any particular bank or services and it is the responsibility of the business to identify and contact a bank of their choice based on their assessment of services available.