Best Bank in Singapore for Foreigners: A Detailed Guide for Expanding Businesses

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In the globalized era, Singapore stands as a beacon for businesses seeking growth, stability, and a favorable economic environment. With its strategic location, robust infrastructure, and progressive financial systems, the city-state attracts foreign companies and entrepreneurs in droves. However, before diving into this promising business landscape, understanding the banking sector and its nuances is paramount. This article offers insights into the best banks for foreigners, the rise of digital-only banking, and essential documentation requirements, while also introducing TopFDI as a trusted partner for foreign businesses in Singapore.

Best bank in singapore for foreigners

Criteria for Choosing the Best Bank in Singapore for Foreigners

Expanding businesses into new territories often means stepping into uncharted banking territories as well. For foreign companies eyeing Singapore, choosing the right bank is a decision that can significantly impact business operations. With a myriad of options available, how do you decide which bank aligns with your needs? Below, we delve into the criteria that foreign businesses should consider when selecting a bank in Singapore:

  1. Ease of Account Opening for Foreigners: Foreign companies might not be familiar with the local banking regulations and processes, making a streamlined and hassle-free account opening process invaluable. Here are key considerations:
  • Documentation Requirements: Some banks may ask for extensive paperwork, while others might have a shorter list.
  • Duration: The faster the process, the quicker businesses can start their operations.
  • Remote Opening: The option to open an account without visiting Singapore can be a significant advantage, especially in the current global scenario.
  1. Quality of International Banking Services: Foreign companies often have operations across different countries. Efficient international banking services ensure smooth cross-border transactions. Here are key considerations:
  • Currency Offerings: Ability to deal in multiple currencies.
  • Forex Rates: Competitive exchange rates can lead to considerable savings.
  • International Transfers: Speed, ease, and cost of sending money across borders.
  1. Digital Banking Capabilities: In an era where everything is shifting online, a robust digital banking platform is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Here are key considerations:
  • User Interface: The ease of navigating the online platform or app.
  • Features: Real-time transaction alerts, biometric logins, mobile check deposits, and more.
  • Security: Encryption standards and other safety measures to protect company finances.
  1. Fees and Charges: Hidden fees or high charges can erode a business’s profits. Transparency and clarity in fees are essential for budgeting and financial planning. Here are key considerations:
  • Account Maintenance Fees: Monthly or annual charges associated with keeping the account active.
  • Transaction Fees: Charges associated with local and international transactions.
  • Additional Service Fees: This can include services like wire transfers, issuance of banker’s guarantees, etc.
  1. Customer Service Reputation: At some point, companies will need to interface with their bank’s customer service—whether for support, troubleshooting, or other banking needs. Efficient and responsive customer service can make these interactions smooth and hassle-free. Here are some key considerations:
  • Availability: 24/7 customer service availability, especially for international businesses operating in different time zones.
  • Communication Channels: Options like live chat, phone support, email responsiveness, and more.
  • Language Support: Multilingual support can be beneficial for non-English speaking businesses.
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Top Banks in Singapore for Foreigners

DBS (Development Bank of Singapore)

Established in 1968, DBS was born out of a vision to support Singapore’s industrialization, giving the nation a strong financial foothold. Over the decades, it has evolved into one of Asia’s leading financial institutions, operating in 18 markets and being recognized as Asia’s safest bank for 12 consecutive years.Here are key features for foreigners:

  • Multi-currency Accounts: DBS offers multi-currency accounts that allow businesses to transact in various currencies seamlessly, offering an advantage in the global marketplace.
  • Comprehensive Online Banking: Their online platform, DBS IDEAL, provides businesses with a real-time banking solution, including trade and forex capabilities.
  • Wide ATM Network: With a vast network of ATMs not only in Singapore but across Asia, accessing funds or conducting transactions becomes convenient for foreigners.

Account Opening Process for Foreign Businesses: While the specific requirements can change based on regulations, generally, foreign businesses need to provide the bank with the company’s registration documents, identification details of company officers, and sometimes proof of business operations. DBS often assigns a relationship manager to assist businesses through the process, ensuring that the account gets activated without many hitches. The possibility of initiating the process online also exists, though some documentation might require physical verification.

OCBC (Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation)

Founded in 1932 from the merger of three local banks, OCBC has since grown to be the second-largest financial services group in Southeast Asia by assets. With a presence in 19 countries, it offers a wide range of banking services, asserting itself as a leading global bank. Here are key features for foreigners:

  • Cross-border Payment Solutions: OCBC offers Velocity@ocbc2.0, their business internet banking platform that facilitates cross-border payments and remittances efficiently.
  • Dedicated Relationship Managers: These managers are specifically trained to understand the unique needs of foreign businesses and can offer tailored solutions and advice.
  • Regional Network: OCBC’s strong presence in Southeast Asia allows businesses to benefit from regional insights and integrated banking solutions.

Account Opening Process for Foreign Businesses: OCBC usually requires foreign businesses to furnish details like business registration documents from their home country, identification details of the directors and shareholders, and a physical presence (like an office address) in Singapore. The bank provides guidance on the documentation required, making the process streamlined. While OCBC also offers online account opening, some steps might necessitate a visit or interaction with the bank’s representatives in Singapore.

UOB (United Overseas Bank)

UOB was founded in 1935 by Datuk Wee Kheng Chiang. Starting as a small bank serving the local communities in Singapore, it has grown over the decades to become a premier banking group in Asia. Today, UOB operates in more than 19 countries and territories in Asia-Pacific, Western Europe, and North America. Here are key features for foreigners:

  • Regional Network across Southeast Asia: UOB boasts an extensive network across Southeast Asia, with branches in key economic hubs. This provides foreign businesses with the advantage of regional insights and integration.
  • Industry-specific Banking Solutions: Understanding the unique requirements of various sectors, UOB offers tailored  banking solutions for industries such as real estate, healthcare, and technology, among others.
  • Foreign Currency Fixed Deposit: Allows foreign businesses to benefit from attractive interest rates in a range of currencies.

Account Opening Process for Foreign Businesses:UOB typically requires foreign entities to provide incorporation documents, personal identification of company directors and authorized signatories, and documentation showcasing the nature of the business. While they do offer online initiation of the account opening process, a meeting with a bank representative might be necessary. UOB’s dedicated corporate banking teams can assist businesses every step of the way, simplifying the procedure.

Standard Chartered Bank

Standard Chartered has its origins in the merger of two banks in 1969: The Standard Bank of British South Africa and the Chartered Bank of India, Australia, and China. The latter was founded in 1853, while the former was established in 1862. Though the bank has British roots, its primary operations today are in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. In Singapore, it started its operations in 1859 and has since become one of the key banks in the city-state.

Here are key features for foreigners:

  • Strong Global Presence: Operating in around 60 countries, Standard Chartered offers a truly global banking experience. This is especially advantageous for multinational businesses.
  • Digital Banking Solutions: Their corporate banking platform, Straight2Bank, provides a suite of online banking and cash management tools that cater to modern business needs.
  • Trade and Working Capital Solutions: Tailored solutions for foreign businesses looking to establish trade lines or manage their working capital in Singapore and the region.

Account Opening Process for Foreign Businesses: Similar to other banks, Standard Chartered requires foreign companies to submit their registration or incorporation documents, proof of business operations, and identification details of key company personnel. An advantage is the bank’s “Welcome to Singapore” package, which simplifies the banking transition for foreign businesses. While the preliminary account opening can be started online, some steps, especially verification, might require a visit to one of their branches or a scheduled meeting with their representatives.

HSBC (Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation)

HSBC, originally established in 1865 to facilitate trade between Europe and Asia, has grown to become one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organizations. With its roots in the bustling commerce of Hong Kong and Shanghai, the bank expanded rapidly and established a dominant presence in major financial hubs globally. In Singapore, HSBC offers an extensive range of services that cater to individual consumers, businesses, and corporations. Here are some foreigner-friendly features:

  • Premier International Accounts: This unique service allows foreigners to link their home country accounts with their Singapore-based HSBC account, facilitating easier money management across borders.
  • Specialist Advisory for Expatriates: Recognizing the unique needs of expatriates, HSBC offers specialist advisory services that provide insights into local financial landscapes, tax implications, and wealth management strategies.
  • Comprehensive Suite of Business Banking Services: From cross-border financing to treasury solutions, HSBC presents a robust range of business banking services tailored to support the diverse needs of foreign businesses in Singapore.

Citibank

Founded in 1812 as the City Bank of New York, Citibank has grown to establish itself as a leading global bank with approximately 2,700 branches in 19 countries. In Singapore, Citibank began operations in 1902, and today, it is a significant player in the banking sector, providing a comprehensive range of financial products and services to its customers. Here are some foreigner-friendly features:

  • Citi Global Transfers: This feature allows Citibank customers to make real-time transfers between their Citibank accounts in different countries, simplifying the process of sending and receiving money internationally.
  • Multi-Currency Accounts: Citibank’s multi-currency accounts allow customers to hold, manage, and transact in multiple currencies, which is especially useful for foreigners who deal with cross-border transactions.
  • Personalized Wealth Management Services: Understanding the varied financial aspirations of its global clientele, Citibank offers tailored wealth management services, providing guidance on investments, estate planning, and other financial needs.

Digital-Only Banks in Singapore: A New Era of Banking

As one of the world’s foremost financial hubs, Singapore is no stranger to innovation in the banking sector. Over recent years, the city-state has witnessed a digital revolution in banking, with digital-only banks emerging as compelling alternatives to traditional financial institutions. Digital-only banks, given their tech-driven nature, typically offer quicker account opening processes, often requiring only a few hours to a couple of days. This speed is a boon for foreign businesses looking to set up operations swiftly. These banks provide real-time insights into transactions, enabling businesses to manage and monitor their finances effectively. 

Also, with reduced operational costs due to the absence of physical branches, many digital banks offer competitive fees and charges, which can result in significant savings for businesses. Many digital banks provide integrated platforms that offer not just banking but also other financial solutions such as payments, forex, and even accounting services. With features such as multi-currency accounts, easy international transfers, and competitive forex rates, digital banks cater well to businesses with a global footprint.

  • Revolut: Originally from the UK, Revolut offers a platform that caters to both individuals and businesses. Their business accounts come with features like multi-currency wallets, international payments without hidden fees, and integrations with tools like Xero.
  • Wise (formerly TransferWise): Known for its transparent fee structure and real exchange rate, Wise has been a game-changer in international transfers. Their multi-currency account allows businesses to send, spend, and receive in multiple currencies, making it a favorite for businesses operating across borders.

To conclude, while traditional banks in Singapore continue to offer value, especially in terms of established reputations and trust, digital-only banks have brought a fresh, tech-driven perspective to the table. For foreign businesses keen on leveraging speed, efficiency, and innovation, these digital banks can be an excellent fit.

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Essential Requirements For Opening a Bank Account in Singapore

Whether you’re a local entrepreneur or a foreign business magnate looking to set up operations in Singapore, opening a bank account is a pivotal step. However, this process can be intricate, given the strict regulatory framework banks operate under. Here’s a guide to help you navigate through the documentation and requirements.

  • Typical Documents Required by Most Banks
    • Business Licenses and Registration: Banks require official documentation proving the legitimacy of your business. This often includes a business license, certificate of incorporation, or similar documents.
    • Company Details: This encompasses the company’s articles of association, memorandum of association, and details about the business’s nature and operations.
    • Identification of Company Officers: Personal identification documents (e.g., passports or national ID cards) of directors, shareholders, and authorized signatories are mandatory. In some cases, proof of address (like a recent utility bill) may be required.
    • Board of Directors Resolution: A resolution from the Board of Directors granting permission to open the bank account and designating the individuals authorized to operate it.
    • Proof of Business Operations: Some banks may ask for further documentation showcasing your business operations, like contracts with clients, invoice samples, or a business plan.
  • Importance of Understanding the Know Your Customer (KYC) Procedures: KYC is a standard banking procedure adopted globally to verify the identity of clients, aiming to prevent money laundering, fraud, and terrorist financing.
    • Regulatory Compliance: KYC ensures banks adhere to anti-money laundering (AML) rules and other regulations. Non-compliance can result in penalties for the bank.
    • Building Trust: It assures the bank of the legitimacy of your business, fostering mutual trust.
    • Protecting the Financial System: By keeping illicit activities at bay, KYC contributes to maintaining the overall health of the financial system.
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TopFDI: Your Partner in Seamless Business Expansion to Singapore

Amidst the complexities of establishing a foreign business in Singapore, it becomes essential to find a reliable partner that understands both the local landscape and the unique needs of international enterprises. Enter TopFDI. Here’s why TopFDI stands out as the preferred choice for many foreign businesses looking to establish a foothold in Singapore:

  • Company Formation: Whether you’re a start-up or an established multinational, TopFDI offers tailored solutions for company registration, ensuring that the process is seamless, efficient, and compliant with Singapore’s regulations.
  • Tax Filing Service: Navigating the tax environment of a new country can be daunting. TopFDI’s team of experts demystifies Singapore’s tax regime, ensuring timely and accurate tax filings, maximizing benefits, and minimizing liabilities.
  • Accounting Service: With their finger on the pulse of global and local accounting standards, TopFDI provides comprehensive accounting services, from bookkeeping to financial analysis, ensuring your business’s financial health is always at its peak.
  • Company Secretary: Compliance is key when operating in a foreign land. TopFDI’s company secretary services ensure that your business adheres to all statutory requirements, leaving you free to focus on what you do best – growing your business.

In the world of banking and finance, where trust is paramount, aligning your business with partners like TopFDI ensures that the administrative side of your venture in Singapore is in capable hands. As you explore banking options and seek to establish a robust financial foundation in the city-state, let TopFDI handle the intricate aspects of your business operations. With their expertise, you’re not just starting a business in Singapore; you’re ensuring its success.

Conclusion

Singapore’s banking and financial sector, with its myriad of options and robust systems, presents vast opportunities for foreign businesses. Whether one opts for the traditional banking giants like HSBC and Citibank, or the newer, tech-driven digital-only banks, the essence remains the same: facilitating business growth and ensuring financial efficiency. Yet, while banking is crucial, the administrative side of business operations can’t be overlooked. That’s where partners like TopFDI come into play, providing a seamless transition for foreign entities. As businesses continue to explore the promise that Singapore offers, having the right information and the right partners ensures they not only navigate but thrive in this dynamic landscape.

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