In this article we will talk about how a business can open a bank account in the EU or UK with non-resident owner.
Over the past five years, businesses from Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East have continued to expand their presence in the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK). This expansion has been driven by various factors, including globalisation, trade agreements, technological advancements, changing consumer preferences, and evolving business landscapes.
Why Banks Are Unwilling To Open Bank Accounts For Companies With Non-Resident Owners?
Businesses looking to expand in to Europe and the UK are driven by investment and acquisition – where a foreign company or person is purchasing or investing into a company based in EU or the UK. Automatically such ownership is seen as non-resident and poses some risk from compliance perspective. Usually it is much harder for the banks compliance team to identify source of wealth that was used to acquire or invest into such business.
Many businesses from Asia, particularly China, have been actively investing in and acquiring European and UK companies. This includes sectors such as technology, real estate, automotive, and healthcare. For instance, Chinese companies have been increasingly investing in semiconductor factories in the European Union (EU) in recent years, to enhance its semiconductor manufacturing capabilities and to have easier access to local markets.
In addition, the tech industry is one of the most prominent sectors where non-resident founders have thrived. Starting with e-commerce and finishing with SaaS. London, in particular, has attracted a diverse range of tech talent from around the world. However, banks remained reluctant to serve even low risk industries with bank accounts due to the fact that owners are non-residents.
Real Estate sector is also buzzing with foreign investments, especially rich Asians looking to own property in major cities such as London, Paris, Amsterdam or even Eastern Europe – Budapest, Hungary.
Moreover, businesses from various regions have been investing in renewable energy projects, sustainable agriculture, and green technology startups, aligning with the EU and UK's sustainability goals. As the Europeans are investing into sustainable future, foreign businesses are willing to set-up offices and on the ground activities to full-fill the market demand.
The specific industries that thrive with non-resident founders can vary over time, depending on market trends, economic conditions, and global events.
End goal for all of these businesses is to form local companies, have physical presence (office and local director) and finally open a bank account.
But it is challenging to open a bank account for this simple reason – compliance and regulation.
Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) Regulations
Banks in the EU are subject to strict AML and KYC regulations. They are required to verify the identity and legitimacy of their customers to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing. Non-resident owners may find it more difficult to meet these requirements, as their identity and financial history may not be as easily accessible as that of local residents.
In addition, banks tend to be cautious when dealing with non-resident customers because they perceive them as higher-risk clients. There is a concern that non-resident account holders may use the accounts for illicit activities, tax evasion, or other fraudulent purposes. To mitigate these risks, banks may impose stricter requirements or deny account applications altogether.
The regulatory environment for banking in the EU can be complex, with each country having its own rules and procedures. This complexity can make it challenging for non-resident owners to navigate the requirements and documentation needed to open a bank account.
And finally, as mentioned previously – banks want to see that company is going to conduct business and not act as shelf-company, therefore many banks require non-resident owners to establish local offices, hire local directors and demonstrate legitimate business activities. Thus compliance team might ask to submit business related invoices, proof of address, and even a website with local language (including office address, of course).
7 Steps To Open Bank Account For Non-Resident Companies And Directors
Opening a bank account for a non-resident company and its directors can be a complex process, as it involves local compliance and the specific policies of the bank. The steps outlined below provide a general guideline for opening a bank account for non-resident companies and directors in many countries, but the exact requirements may vary depending on the jurisdiction and bank. You may also contact us and we will provide a list of banks in the EU and UK who are friendly for discussed company set-ups.
Company formation and set-up. If you already have a company – skip this step. Company structure might impact the compliance evaluation of the company’s bank account opening application. More simple and transparent structure will create more chance of onboarding. We do also advise business owners that have passports of sanctioned countries to seek residence outside of those sanctioned jurisdictions, otherwise account opening will not be possible.
Gathering required documentation. Collect all necessary documentation for both the company and its directors. Common documents include:
Certificate of Incorporation or Registration: proof of the company's legal existence.
Articles of Association or Operating Agreement: governing documents outlining the company's structure and operations.
Business Plan: an overview of the company's business activities and anticipated transactions. Or Flow of Funds explanation could be sufficient. If operations are going to be mainly B2B, some banks might require example invoices. If bank will start enhanced due diligence, they could ask for rent agreements, employment contracts of the directors or even vendors. These cases are only for very high risk businesses.
Identification Documents: passport or national ID for each director and beneficial owner.
Proof of Address: utility bills or bank statements confirming the residential addresses of directors. Rent agreement for the company’s official address could work too. Let’s not forget POA must be not older than 6 months.
Company Resolution: a document authorizing specific individuals to open and operate the bank account on behalf of the company.
Tax Identification Number (TIN): if required by the bank or local tax authorities.
AML/KYC Forms: bank-specific forms requesting additional information about the company and directors or business activities, and sometimes reason for account opening.
Appointing Authorized Signatories: determine who will have signing authority on the account and ensure that they are authorized by the company's governing documents and resolution.
Complete The Application Form And Due Diligence Checks: fill out the bank's application form accurately, providing all requested information and attaching the required documents. In addition, we encourage to provide details answers to any additional questions from the banks representatives in a timely manner. Be prepared for the bank to conduct due diligence checks on the company and its directors. This may include background checks, source of funds verification, and AML/KYC checks.
Wait For Approval: the bank will review your application and documentation. Approval times can vary, so be patient. In some rare instances, the bank might ask to first fund the account before finally approving it. The funding must come from the company’s owners personal accounts.
Maintain Compliance And Manage Account: obtain access to online banking and other services provided by the bank for managing the account. On top, continuously monitor and maintain compliance with the bank's requirements and any ongoing reporting obligations.
If you still have any questions related to bank account opening or would like to get our opinion on your situation, do not hesitate to reach out us via filling out the contact form and we will provide you with an answer in 1-2 business days.
In conclusion, opening a business bank account in the EU or UK for non-resident companies and directors presents challenges due to strict regulations and compliance requirements. The reluctance of banks to serve non-resident owners is driven by concerns about money laundering and risk. However, by carefully choosing a bank, ensuring proper company setup, and providing necessary documentation, businesses can navigate these challenges. While the process may be complex, it is attainable with patience and adherence to regulatory guidelines, allowing international companies to access the banking services they need for expansion.