Digital SME Bank Accounts 2023: Guide to Opening a Business Account

Shermaine Tan8 min
GuidesBusiness tips
Digital SME Bank Accounts 2023: Guide to Opening a Business Account
In this article

Singapore is often regarded as Asia’s financial nucleus, and small-to-medium businesses (SMEs) stand to benefit from the country’s support for fintech innovations. A digital business account or digital corporate bank account can transform the way local SMEs and startups do business. These are more than digital versions of traditional corporate accounts, these are financial platforms that help you streamline operations and enable expansion into overseas markets.

Keep reading to discover how digital SME bank accounts can help your business grow, and how to choose one that suits your ambitions. 

What is a digital SME bank account?

A digital SME bank account offers a range of user-friendly financial services tailored to the needs of small businesses. Unlike traditional corporate banks, which operate heavily through physical branches, digital SME banks operate mostly or entirely online. Their core service is a digital business account that lets entrepreneurs send or receive payments, often with multi-currency support. Other services include integration with fintech products like payment links or corporate cards

Getting started with a digital business bank is fast and straightforward, often requiring just a few documents uploaded into the bank’s platform. On the other hand, a traditional corporate bank might require a longer account creation process that involves in-person branch visits and onerous paper documentation. 

Although digital banks offer convenience, speed, and modern integrations, legacy corporate banks bring the weight of their long-established reputations. The choice between the two often hinges on your specific needs, preferences, and comfort with digital-first solutions.

How do Singapore SMEs benefit from digital business banks?

Digital SME banks can be an indispensable ally to SMEs, promising efficiency, cost savings, and a more intuitive banking experience. Here are 4 ways your business can benefit from digital banking:

Instant business bank account opening & lower fees

Instant account opening means your business can start banking without a lengthy onboarding and approval process. Unlike traditional corporate banking, which may involve hard copy paperwork, in-person visits, and extended waiting periods, digital banks use streamlined processes to verify your business in Singapore in a matter of days.

Every dollar saved matters, and digital banks can enable greater cost savings across your financial operations. Because digital banks operate mostly online, they have lower overhead costs compared to their traditional counterparts. These savings are often passed on to you through reduced fees or smaller initial deposits. 

Multi-currency support and bulk payments 

When you deal with overseas clients and suppliers, you need to send and receive payments quickly and at the lowest rates possible. With a digital SME bank account, you can hold, manage and transact in your preferred currencies. 

However, many digital banks still charge high fees for overseas transactions and currency conversion. Digital cross-border payment services such as Airwallex outperform banks in this case, as they provide multi-currency support at market-friendly rates and minimal conversion fees.

Digital banks also let you automate bulk payments, allowing you to execute multiple transactions with just a few clicks. This is especially useful for streamlining tasks like payroll transactions or multiple supplier payments, and reduces the risk of manual errors.

Expense management

Digital SME banks have expense management features that help you track, categorise, and analyse expenditures. This helps you keep accurate financial records and ensures compliance, without putting a strain on your administrative resources. 

Through user-friendly dashboards, you get a real-time view of your business’s expenses and sync these with accounting software like Quickbooks and Xero for faster reconciliation. Some platforms even offer receipt scanning and simplified expense reports that can be filled on a mobile app, saving valuable time for your employees.

5 digital business accounts that support SMEs in Singapore

Each SME has unique needs and growth opportunities, which can be met with the right business account. Here are 5 digital SME business accounts to consider:

Airwallex Global Account ANEXT UOB eBusiness Account OCBC Business Growth Account DBS Business Multi-Currency Account - Starter Bundle
Multi-Currency account Yes Dual-currency No No No
Currencies held 20+ currencies, including SGD, CNY, EUR, GBP, IDR, KRW, THB, USD SGD, USD SGD only SGD only 13 currencies
Bulk payments Yes No Yes No Yes
Corporate card Yes - unlimited free debit cards No No Yes - one free debit card No
Account opening or setup fee Free Free Free for Singapore-incorporated companies; S$500 for foreign-incorporated companies Free Free
Initial deposit None None S$1,000 S$1,000 None
Account fee None None S$35 annual fee S$10 monthly fee (waived for first 2 months) S$10 monthly fee
Fall-below fee None None 12-month fee waiver. Afterwards, S$15 if average daily balance falls below S$5,000. S$15 per month if average monthly balance falls below S$1,000 None
Transfer fees (per transaction)
  • Free local transfers to 110+ countries

  • Unlimited free FAST & GIRO transactions

  • S$20 SWIFT(SHA) payout fee

  • S$35 SWIFT(OUR) payout fee
  • Free local transfers in Singapore only

  • S$15 SWIFT(SHA) fee

  • S$50 SWIFT(OUR)

  • S$35 SWIFT(OUR) payout fee
  • Free FAST & GIRO transactions

  • S$10 inward telegraphic transfers

  • 1/16% commission (min. S$10, max S$100) plus cable and/or agent charges per outward telegraphic transfers
  • Unlimited free FAST & GIRO transactions

  • S$25 cable charge per outward remittance via OCBC Velocity
  • Unlimited free FAST & GIRO transactions

  • S$30 flat fee per outward telegraphic transfer
  • Application requirement Singapore and foreign-incorporated companies Singapore-incorporated companies only Singapore and foreign-incorporated companies Singapore-incorporated companies only Singapore-incorporated less than 3 years ago

    *Based on publicly available information from the Airwallex Fee Schedule, ANEXT Fee Schedule, UOB eBusiness Account page, OCBC Business Growth Account page and Business Pricing Guide, DBS Multi Currency Account Starter Bundle page. Information valid as of 29 Aug 2023.

    Airwallex Global Account

    SMEs who have offshore teams and overseas suppliers can benefit from an Airwallex Global Account. This multi-currency account lets you create local business account details in multiple countries, so you can send or receive payments like a local entity. This means faster transactions and lower fees. Your Global Account can also hold 20+ different foreign currencies, allowing you to only convert when there is a business need or when exchange rates are favourable, protecting you from foreign exchange risk and improving your cash flow.  

    On top of this, Airwallex has features like batch transfers and expense management, which simplifies your financial operations and gives you full visibility on expenses. You can also issue free unlimited Borderless Cards, a corporate debit card powered by Visa that earns 1% unlimited cashback on all business expenses.

    An Airwallex account is free to open and has no initial deposit, fall-below fees, or monthly and annual fees. 

    ANEXT Bank 

    ANEXT Bank is the latest SME digital bank to launch in Singapore, and it comes with 3 main services. The ANEXT dual-currency Business Account helps SMEs send and receive payments in both SGD and USD. 

    Opening an account is as simple as logging into your Singpass account, making ANEXT ideal for SMEs who need quick access to capital and who frequently send payments in USD.

    UOB eBusiness Account 

    Young entrepreneurs who prefer a legacy bank might be interested in the UOB eBusiness Account. Among all of UOB’s corporate accounts, the eBusiness Account has the lowest minimum daily balance (S$5,000) and lowest annual account fee (S$35). This account also has free FAST and GIRO transactions, which makes it ideal for SMEs that cater to the Singapore market and do not have overseas operations.

    OCBC Business Growth Account

    The OCBC Business Growth Account is another low-cost legacy solution for Singapore-registered businesses. Compared to other OCBC accounts, they have the lowest initial deposit of just $1,000 and free FAST, GIRO, and PayNow transactions. The account also comes with one free debit card that rewards you with 1% cashback on all business expenses.  

    Although the OCBC Business Growth Account is an SGD account, you can also open a Multi-Currency Business Account to support your business’s overseas operations.

    DBS Business Multi-Currency Account - Starter Bundle

    New entrepreneurs starting their first venture can consider the DBS Business Account Starter Bundle. It’s only available to companies who have been incorporated for less than 3 years, and comes with free FAST and GIRO transactions (excluding bulk payments). You can also hold and transact in SGD and in 12 different currencies. 

    How to choose the right digital bank for your SME

    Choosing the right digital bank involves evaluating your business’s specific requirements and scoping out services offered by various banks. Start by assessing your transaction history, cross-border business needs, and any specialised support you require. Then you can compare and evaluate the following features across SME business accounts:

    Fee structure

    Managing overheads is essential to a business’s profitability. If you need to be financially conservative, you shouldn’t overlook fee structures in your research.  

    Maintaining a minimum balance that’s greater than your operational needs can mean missed opportunities. On the other hand, failing to maintain the minimum balance can incur additional fees. Meanwhile, the smallest monthly account fees can accumulate over time and erode your profit margins. 

    If you can’t risk any further addition to your overhead, consider a business account with a simple fee structure, with no hidden fees and no minimum deposit requirements.

    Multi-currency support 

    Multi-currency support means you can receive funds, hold funds, and make international payments in different currencies. It is a non-negotiable feature for any SME with offshore employees or overseas customers and suppliers. 

    Not only do multi-currency accounts facilitate seamless and convenient transactions; you also save on exchange rate spreads and conversion fees. This protects your business against currency risk and enhances your ability to work with international partners without incurring additional costs. 

    While Airwallex is not a digital bank, we are a MAS-licensed payment institution that partners with local payment rails in different countries and economic territories. This gives us the ability to offer free overseas transfers in local currencies. Money sent from your Global Account is processed through local payment rails, which lets you bypass the SWIFT network and avoid SWIFT fees

    This also means faster transactions and lower fees. Airwallex enables fast cross-border payments to 150 countries and in 46+ currencies, as quickly as 1 business day. 

    Bulk payments 

    Bulk payments make the payment process faster, cheaper, and more organised. Many business accounts offer reduced fees for batch transfers, saving you money and reducing administrative work for your team. Automating and consolidating payments also reduces the chance of manual errors that might occur when sending individual transactions. 

    With Airwallex, you can easily make batch transfers to multiple recipients globally. All you need is to prepare a batch transfer file, enter the account numbers and amounts, and upload it onto the platform. Creating a batch transfer doesn’t cost extra, and you save on foreign exchange fees when you send money using currencies you hold.

    Service support  

    If there is one downside to digital services, it’s that they often lack the human touch. The drive for efficiency often comes at the cost of receiving personalised support and nuanced advice. 

    It’s important to choose an SME business account that provides both personal and efficient service. That’s why all Airwallex customers get assigned a Singapore-based account manager, who is strongly attuned to the specific challenges and opportunities faced by SMEs. That way, you will always get relevant advice for using Airwallex to grow your business. We also have a local support team who you can reach through email, chat, or phone. 

    Requirements for opening a digital business bank account

    “Know your customer” (KYC) is required by financial regulators to prevent financial fraud, money laundering, and terrorist financing. In the context of opening an SME bank account, KYC involves a series of verification procedures that confirm the legitimacy of your business and the individuals associated with it. 

    Below are some documents that you’ll need to submit when you open a business account. This is not an exhaustive list, as each financial institution may have different requirements depending on your business type.

    • Proof of business registration. This is typically your Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) business profile.

    • Proof of business address. This can be a rental agreement or any official document indicating the business's registered address.

    • Company directors and shareholder information. You need to provide identification documents and proof of residential addresses for the Ultimate Beneficial Owners (UBO), directors, and shareholders. Proof of address can include a bank statement, utility bill, or phone bill. 

    • Ownership structure chart. Banks may need to understand your shareholding structure, and may require an equity or ownership chart.

    Authorisation letter. If you are not the director of the registered business, provide a letter saying you have the authority to act on behalf of the company.

    3 easy steps to opening an Airwallex Global Account

    Ready to start using Airwallex for your business? Creating an account is easy and fast - here’s how:

    Step 1: Create a free Airwallex Business Account

    Step 2: Verify your business by uploading documents online

    Step 3: Start using your account in 1-3 business days!

    Open a global multi currency account for free in Singapore

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    Shermaine Tan
    Manager, Growth Marketing

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