It’s almost a year since I wrote the original article How to Open an Offshore Bank Account in Singapore, and it has consistently been the most popular article on the blog archives almost since day one. I have been thinking for a while, therefore, that it was time to revisit the subject of Singapore offshore bank accounts. Then finally I was stirred into action by my friend Simon Black, who is in Singapore at the moment. Simon wrote an article this week on Why Singapore is the ‘Easiest Place to be an Entrepreneur.’
UPDATE – 2015…. For the latest information on opening an Offshore Bank Account, Check Out This Guide….. It includes real contact names numbers and addresses where Offshore bank Accounts can be opened
Do you want to open a bank account in Singapore? How can you do so as a non-resident? Do you need to go there or can you open your multi-currency account by mail? These are some of the questions I’ll be answering in this article.
The city-state of Singapore has developed in recent years into one of the best private banking jurisdictions. But besides targeting their traditional but fast growing market of wealthy Asian business people, the best offshore banks in Singapore today are also developing products and services tailored specifically for North Americans, Europeans and Aussies. Despite the big time zone differences, Singapore’s business culture and use of the English language makes this easier.
While in most of the world opening a bank account seems to be getting harder and harder, in Singapore it is actually getting easier!
Ask anyone in Singapore what the easiest way is to open a bank account as a non-resident, and they will almost certainly point you in the direction of one of the foreign banks. Citibank, for example, is a major player in Singapore and you can contact them via their site. They will return calls to wherever you are in the world.
I’ve always liked Citibank. Citibank is culturally very different from most American banks, having a much more international outlook. Back in 1897 they were the first US bank to establish international banking operations. Whereas most US banks don’t even allow you to send an international wire transfer online, today nearly half of Citibank’s branches and offices are outside the USA. Wherever they go they settle into local banking culture and generally offer excellent internet banking, credit cards, 24 hour call centers and the like. They are completely comfortable doing business in multiple currencies – something essential in Singapore’s business and banking environment.
Citibank, like other international banks that are big in Singapore – HSBC, ANZ or the British emerging markets bank Standard Chartered for example – would be ideal for those who cannot travel to open an account. The process would be first to contact the Singapore offices, then ask about procedures for certifying documents in an overseas branch or affiliate that is located near to wherever you are. Big international banks can generally arrange this – even more so if your investment is substantial enough to qualify for a premium service like Citigold ($1 million minimum in Singapore) or HSBC Premier.
However, if you are looking at banking offshore for privacy reasons, you’ll probably want to avoid American banks. Citibank will, for example, require a social security number from US citizens or a National Insurance number from British citizens, and will likely make you sign a waiver of Singapore banking secrecy law, allowing them to make reports to your home country authorities, as a condition of opening the bank account.
Whilst I hope none of you would be unsophisticated enough, given all the how-to info on this site, to rely on banking secrecy to hide or fail to report a personal account… I still think it’s undesirable that you should have to waive legal rights that are there for your protection, if it’s not absolutely necessary.
One international player that might be less subject to pressure from foreign governments in Standard Bank, a South African bank that has established a significant presence in emerging markets from China to South America. Standard Bank should not be confused with Standard Chartered Bank by the way – they are different institutions.
Ultimately, however, the best confidentiality is to be found with local or Asian market banks. OCBC Bank for example (Overseas China Banking Corp) would be a good place to start. They also have an excellent online trading portal, iOCBC. Last time I asked, they did still accept offshore brokerage accounts for US citizens, though given the provisions of the HIRE Act, who knows how long this will last.
During the coming year I’ll be focusing more on Singapore banking. I’m looking forward first to Simon Black’s Sovereign Man workshop in Panama in February, which is a chance for those from the American continent to meet Singapore bankers in person without flying right around the world. Then, I’ll likely be attending the Shorex Singapore event for offshore professionals in April. If you are going to be in the area, let’s meet up.
If you are not yet a subscriber to our free weekly Q Bytes newsletter, be sure to sign up here right now, and I’ll inform you via the newsletter as soon as our updated Singapore report is available. In the meantime, paid up Q Wealth members are welcome to contact our offices for referrals to more discreet private offshore banks that wouldn’t want their names publicized here. We also now have a great provider for opening accounts in Hong Kong and we can make referrals on request.