Requirements and procedures to open an SME bank account in Hong Kong

8 min
GuidesBusiness tips
Requirements and procedures to open an SME bank account in Hong Kong
In this article

Opening an SME bank account is the first step for any business –– an SME bank account is not only a token of confidence to your customers and suppliers, but also a portal to connect to third-party online payment gateways to increase the rate of successful payments. Rumour has it though, that opening an SME bank account in Hong Kong is increasingly challenging. Read on to find out everything you need to know about opening SME bank accounts in Hong Kong.

Has opening an SME bank account become more challenging in Hong Kong?

To keep abreast of the international effort to combat money laundering and tax evasion, Hong Kong Monetary Authority has already tightened its grip on banks and financial institutions since 2012. Inevitably, opening SME bank accounts has since become more complicated. 

KYC (Know Your Customer) is arguably the most frustrating procedure of all. As part of compliance due diligence, KYC is for banks to fully comprehend their customers’ nature of business, source of income, location of operation, and auditing practice. For this, SME owners have to prepare a meticulous set of documents and supporting evidence; some banks even request a face-to-face interview with their SME specialists, creating extra pressure on SME owners. 

Why should you open a business account?

SMEs can effectively differentiate personal finances from company accounts by utilizing a business account. This ensures transparency and accuracy in liquidity and financial records. Moreover, the risk associated with a corporate account is comparatively lower than that of a personal account. In the event of substantial financial transactions, a business account is less susceptible to regulatory scrutiny and account freezing.

A step-by-step guide to SME bank account opening

Before the rise of FinTech, SME owners need to first book an appointment with the bank by calling, then show up at the appointment with a pile of documents for review, and sit tight for weeks or even a month for a decision - whether or not your request for a business account is approved. 

Lucky for us now, FinTech and online banking have already gained momentum, propelling even the most traditional banks and institutes to enable online account opening. SME owners can simply go on to the bank’s official website, select the most suitable type of business bank account, fill out the application form, and upload the necessary documents –– all in the comfort of their own home or office. 

Methods for opening a business account

As financial technology and online banking become increasingly popular, there are three primary methods for opening a business account: online, through a mobile application, or in-person at a bank.

  • Several traditional banks and financial institutions now offer SME account opening services online. SME owners can visit the bank's website and select the suitable corporate account, fill out the application form, and upload the required documents to open an account.

  • By downloading the mobile application of the bank, individuals can fill in their information, upload the required documents, complete identity verification, and undergo the entire process without the need for a personal visit to the bank.

  • Visit the bank in person.  It is suggested to make an appointment in advance so bank staff can assist with the necessary procedures.

Tips for opening a business account for SMEs

Discover valuable tips below, equip yourself, and  set up your SME business account smoothly.

  1. Gather all essential documents, such as Business Registration (BR) Certificates, business identification documents, or information on company directors and shareholders. This will save you time and prevent any delays during the document submission process.

  2. Make sure that your BR certificate states clearly of the scope and nature of your business activities, and that it remains valid.

  3. Compare the transaction limits and fees for corporate account openings offered by different banks.

  4. Ensure you have enough funds to meet the minimum deposit requirements.

  5. Prior to opening the account, it is advisable to get in touch with the bank to gain a comprehensive understanding of all the requirements, necessary documents, and associated fees.

What documents do you need to open a business bank account?  

The devil is in the details. Opening an SME bank account may have become easier with the help of technology, if you upload the wrong document, all your time and effort invested will, unfortunately, go down the drain.

What documents do you need to open a business bank account?

Documents needed to open a business bank account –– Business Registration and Proof of Business

What constitutes a valid Business Registration?

Make sure your Business Registration is within the validity period when you apply for a business bank account. Some banks require that the Business Registration includes the nature and scope of your business. 

What is Proof of Business? How is it different from a Business Registration?

Regardless of your chosen type of business or corporate bank account, Proof of Business is an essential document for account opening. In general, Proof of Business refers to any document that proves a company conducts legitimate business activities, such as invoices, sales agreements, employment contracts, and office leases. 

Business Registration, on the other hand, is issued by the Companies Registry. All businesses –– sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited companies, and overseas subsidiaries –– must register with the Companies Registry within 30 days of the start of business operation. The HKSAR Government will administer tax collection and audit exercises based on this public information. 

Why do we need to prepare these documents for business account opening?

In short, this is for the sake of combating money laundering. When opening an SME bank account, as part of due diligence, banks need to go through the KYC process and perform ongoing monitoring. The documents are therefore needed for the banks to understand your nature of business and source of funds. Some banks may even ask about your business’s average transaction volume, monthly transaction amount, and the like to further understand the operation of your business. 

Suitable local business bank accounts for SMEs in Hong Kong

There is no shortage of business bank accounts specifically catered to the unique needs of SMEs. In fact, as banks compete for SMEs to open accounts, they often offer low (or even no) minimum deposit requirements, nominal monthly fees, additional services, and other special offers. We have handpicked 8 local business accounts for you:

Requirements of different SME bank accounts

Suitable local business bank accounts for SMEs in Hong Kong

*Eligible for applicants who meet the requirements of online identity verification only. Last updated on 14 June 2024. Please refer to the official websites of the banks for details.

^Face-to-face appointment is required after submitting the application online.

‘Waived if the deposit meets the minimum requirement.

Eligibility of local SME bank account application 

1. Standard Chartered: Business Banking

Standard Chartered requires an advanced booking with the bank and submission of business information, including Company History, Company ownership structure, Information about the company’s business nature, Principal place of operation, key products/services, etc.

2. DBS: Business Account

According to the official website of DBS Bank, any limited company, partnership, or sole proprietorship registered and established in Hong Kong is eligible for a DBS Business Account. 

3. HSBC: Sprint Account

Specially designed to cater to the needs of local startups and SMEs, HSBC’s Sprint Account requires companies to be registered and operated in Hong Kong with an annual transaction limit of US$3 million. In addition to that, the company has to be established for no more than 3 years.

4. Hang Seng Bank: Integrated Business Solutions Account or Biz Virtual+ Account

The Integrated Business Solutions Account is suitable for businesses with steady growth. Although the minimum deposit requirement is a stiff HK$100,000, it is nonetheless a comprehensive banking and financial solution for SMEs, with free payroll services and multiple financial management tools. 

Biz Virtual+ Account, on the other hand, is perfect for startups or newly established SMEs. To apply for this business account, all directors, shareholders, and authorised signatories must hold a valid Hong Kong Identity Card. The company must be established, registered, and operated in Hong Kong, with a daily online transaction limit of HK$200,000. Worth noting, that Biz Virtual+ Account holders are not entitled to Hang Seng business e-banking services; you will need to apply for one separately. 

5. Bank of China: Business Integrated Account

The requirements of applying for a Bank of China Business Integrated Account are no different from the other banks. However, if you hope to complete the application online, you will need to be eligible for its Remote Account Opening Service: the company is registered in Hong Kong; all directors, shareholders, and authorised signatories must hold Hong Kong Identity Card; the total number of directors, shareholders, and authorised signatories must not exceed 10.

If you cannot meet any of the above conditions, Bank of China may arrange a face-to-face appointment with you based on your application. 

6. BEA: Corporate Plus Account

You may expect to go through similar procedures when you apply for a business bank account at BEA prepare all the necessary documents (Business Registration, HKID, etc.), book an appointment online, and officially kickstart the process of opening an SME bank account. 

7. ZA Bank: Business Account

As a virtual bank, ZA Bank has a list of unambiguous application requirements for its business accounts. First, register a contact person on your computer. This contact person should be the sole proprietor of the company or one of the shareholders/directors/partners who holds 25% or more of the shares. Fill in the company information, including the company's business details, address, and tax information. Then, complete the electronic identity verification and application confirmation via the ZA Bank App on your mobile phone. Finally, complete the customer due diligence process over the phone.

*Last updated on 14 June 2024. Please refer to the official websites of the banks for details.

Airwallex: Competitive advantages over traditional and virtual banks

Backed by the new generation of financial technology, Airwallex offers much more than local banks. 

Airwallex: Competitive advantages over traditional and virtual banks

As a global payment company, Airwallex works with over 60 banks and financial institutions globally to offer fast and secure international transfer services. In other words, Airwallex will never limit the location of your business operation –– in fact, we are here to facilitate your global expansion. When you use our Multi-Currency Global Accounts to conduct foreign transactions, initiating international remittances is just as easy as making local transfers. 

Airwallex also offers a full suite of financial technology products, including Borderless Cards. You can bypass the complications of applying for a corporate card through traditional banks, and create virtual employee cards instantly within a few clicks. Set spending limits for company expenses, eliminate the trouble of reimbursement altogether, and take 100% control of your operational budget. You can also connect our Borderless Cards with Apple Pay and Google Pay, to easily handle both online and offline payments.

Sign up for free for our Airwallex Global Account today to unlock your business potential. 

FAQ 

Can I still open a Hong Kong business account if my company is registered in mainland China or overseas?

Most traditional banks offer business accounts for mainland China and overseas companies, but the type of account will be different from what we covered above. 

Alternatively, you may consider applying for a business bank account through FinTech platforms. Airwallex operates in over 150 countries, empowering you to open a multi-currency global account based on your company’s registered location. No matter where you are, making international transfers and payments is just as easy as initiating local transfers. 

When opening a business bank account, are the requirements different for sole-funded and crowd-funded companies?

Normally, the requirements for sole-funded companies are relatively simpler: you can kickstart the account opening process with your identity document, Business Registration, and the Business Registration Application Form (Form 1(a)). 

For crowd-funded companies such as partnerships and limited companies, you will need to submit the identity documents of all partners, shareholders, beneficial owners, and authorised signatories. If your company is a limited company, you will also need a separate set of documents including theReturn of Allotment, List of Board of Directors, Certificate of Incorporation, Memorandum And Articles of Association, and so on.

Back to blog

Share

Subscribe for our latest news and updates

Related Posts

Understanding Wire Transfers : How It Works
Business tipsGuides

Understanding Wire Transfers : How It Works

Kirstie Lau

8 min

CNH vs CNY: The Differences in Chinese Renminbi
Alice Wong

3 minutes

Watch 3-minute demo

Enter your details below to watch the demo: