Published in Hong Kong News on 18.10.2016
Hong Kong News: Update on Opening a Bank Account in Hong Kong
Since early 2016, there have been concerns in Hong Kong that some corporate customers, notably foreign small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-up companies have expressed difficulty in opening bank accounts. Based on the information collected by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), this does not appear to be an industry wide issue. Nevertheless, the issue seems pertinent amongst a few banks which are usually the first port of call for many overseas companies seeking to open a bank account in Hong Kong.
At the last International Business Committee meeting with the Chief Secretary for Administration of the Government of the HKSAR on 30 September, all stakeholders learned that both the HKMA and the Hong Kong Association of Banks are continuing to take measures to engage financial institutions to facilitate better understanding and interpretation of regulations.
At the same time, suggestions have been put forth to financial institutions to consider, such as increasing transparency to the general public regarding bank account opening requirements; enhancing training for front-line banking staff; and setting up mechanisms to help clients track the bank account opening process.
Separately, there are many other banks in Hong Kong which have indicated to the HKMA their interests in exploring businesses with foreign SMEs. A list of about 20 banks of a wide variety of backgrounds (with both local and foreign banks) has been compiled that are keen to conduct business with foreign SMEs.
If you would like to obtain further information concerning these banks send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org
In view of the latest developments related to de-risking by banks, the HKMA issued guidelines to all banks in Hong Kong, clarifying the HKMA’s expectation that banks should refrain from adopting practices that would result in financial exclusion, such as the indiscriminate application of AML/CFT controls in the de-risking process. Instead, banks should adopt a risk-based approach, which is an internationally recognized concept on the application of customer due diligence measures in a balanced manner, proportionate to the likely riskiness of different types of customers, transactions or services. The guidelines emphasise that the risk-based approach is not a “zero failure” regime, which means banks are not required to implement overly stringent customer due diligence processes with a view to eliminating, ex-ante, all risks.