I am an American citizen and have been running a small textile business in Vietnam for just over five years. Since my company is incorporated solely in Vietnam, I have been conducting all of my corporate and individual banking activities through my Vietnam- ese bank accounts. Although I am quite satis ed with the service I receive, I am often frustrated when having to conduct international transactions, both personally and in a corporate capacity, as I have to physically visit the bank and complete various documents. I am also prone to receiving phone calls from my bank every timeI receive payments from abroad, inquiring the reason for receiving these funds. Is there any way I can open bank accounts internationally, making it easier to facilitate my global transactions?
This is an extremely common issue and talking point we encounter when speaking with clients and the community in general. The reason that banks in Vietnam make it difficult for expats, and even more so for Vietnamese citizens, to make international remittances and transfers, is because the State Bank of Vietnam needs to protect the local currency from excessive outflows and potentially uncontrollable devaluation of the currency. Therefore, it’s not the banks that are purposefully trying to make your life difficult.
You have a number of options when it comes to opening bank accounts internationally. Your first two obvious choices would be Singapore and Hong Kong. In the past, it was fairly easy to open a bank account in Singapore while living in Vietnam. However, since the beginning of 2016, Singaporean banks have been making it increasingly more difficult for non-residents to open accounts because of increased issues with money laundering. For example, to open a personal bank account with Citibank in Singapore you would have to physically visit a branch in the country and open an account with an initial deposit of USD200,000. Minimums are much lower in Hong Kong, but you would have to physically visit a branch in Hong Kong to complete the account opening. International business banking, in your case, would be a different kettle of fish as you would not be able to use an international bank for your Vietnamese business entity, and would have to incorporate a holding company, in either Hong Kong or Singapore, from which you would be able to open an international business account for that entity. Incorporating holding companies in the British Virgin Islands was quite popular in the past, and it has become increasingly difficult to open accounts in either Singapore or Hong Kong for these types of entities.
An optimal solution would be to open accounts in the Isle of Man, which is a respected self-governing international financial center located off the North West coast of the United Kingdom. A banking group known as Standard Bank is located on the island, and they offer international personal and corporate bank accounts at low minimum deposit levels. Additionally, you would be able to open a corporate account for entities based in most juris- dictions, on condition that you can provide detailed shareholder and financial information relating to the corporate entity in question. Individual account holders are also required to provide detailed information about personal wealth and cash flows because of the banks strict anti-money laundering policies. The great news is that you would be able to open this type of account from Vietnam, and have all your documents certified by your independent financial adviser in Vietnam. Also, as an American you would be accepted as an account holder, which is advantageous because most banks would not accept US citizens because of compliance issues relating to FATCA legislation.
Opening international accounts can be an arduous process, but extremely beneficial in the long-run with the added value of protecting your assets and making interna- tional transactions much easier.