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Banking for international clients

Does anyone know of a solution for foreign clients who want to open UK bank accounts?

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Being a foreigner myself I get a lot of people asking about opening limited companies in the UK. The answer is always the same - the company bit is easy but getting a bank account is difficult. Last time I looked into this was about two years ago when a South African investment company wanted to set up a UK entity through which they would invest in UK companies. The RSA based company had twelve shareholders and every bank I spoke to wanted all the RSA shareholders to tip up to London so they could be KYC'd. They didn't bother so maybe they weren't serious. 

So my standard response when I am approached is always, 'if you are serious about the UK then you need to invest in trip over here to open the bank accounts.' 

Does anyone know of any banks that allow the KYC to be done at the local branch on behalf of the UK bank? HSBC has offices all over the world but as far as I have been told by them, they don't allow this. I have been approached again today and I was wondering if anything has changed and if anyone else has any solutions. 


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By Ian McTernan CTA
10th Feb 2020 14:41

A good start.

An international business bank account is a good way to go, usually set up by a correspondent bank.

Personally I now use Transferwise to the small transactions I do in multiple currencies, but there are many small internet banks around now that will set up UK bank account numbers and indeed several country bank account numbers.

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Hallerud at Easter
10th Feb 2020 14:57

It may be easier setting up a wholly owned UK sub where its parentco is offshore and all directors of UK co are UK based. (In effect keep the existing 12 away from direct mention within the UK Co)

There must be a route through this as larger foreign based companies set up UK companies all the time- or maybe this is why they all own corporate jets.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By tom123
10th Feb 2020 15:19

Used to work for a Canadian sub in UK. We used HSBC global, and didn't seem to be a problem.

Mind you, we had a substantial UK presence too.

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By accountantccole
11th Feb 2020 12:39


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Replying to accountantccole:
By sash100
12th Feb 2020 17:47

I spoke to Revolut a few months back and they will not consider non resident directors outside EU.

Also quite a few other internet banks will not consider non resident directors.

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By jon_griffey
11th Feb 2020 15:22

This is a serous problem now and the Government needs to be aware of this and do something about it. All this KYC, AML etc is all very laudable but is has gone too far and is choking off genuine business.

Time and again I deal with foreign firms who are looking to invest in the UK and create jobs and they end up getting thwarted as they cannot get a UK bank account.

A few very recent examples...

A Canadian based parent co recently formed a UK company and have got £1M+ to spend on acquiring an established business (with premises, staff etc) from administrators. I told them to get at least one UK resident director to help with the banking. Even with that none of the main banks would deal with them. They ended up going with Revolut, as a last resort.

A UK resident guy with dual British/American citizenship and an excellent credit record formed a contracting company and was refused an account because dealing with Americans involves 'too much paperwork'.

An established client had clients in Colombia and Russia, doing genuine business and the bank have took fright and closed the account.

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By sash100
12th Feb 2020 17:45

We have had some success with opening UK bank accounts for our non resident clients.

The high street banks are so risk averse nowadays especially with the money laundering and US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. Barclays and HSBC have been heavily fined for non compliance and there is even a more reluctance to open a bank account where there are non residents as laws get stricter. Banks also find it a administrative burden with non resident directors. I know even with high street banks international bank accounts they are also difficult to open unless you are a very large company also there is a good chance they will not consider you even if you meet their stringent criteria. There is often no explanation on why you have been rejected

I would stay away from HSBC if you are from overseas as my clients have had their bank account close for no reason and they are notorious for closing without any or little notice.

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