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Can You Really Get a Hong Kong Bank Account by Buying an Existing Company?

Updated: May 17



In Brief: Acquiring a Hong Kong company with an existing bank account is unlikely to bypass KYC checks, as banks still scrutinize changes in ownership and require new owners to go through full due diligence - instead, reputable firms can assist with account opening, fintech platforms offer digital solutions, and exploring other jurisdictions may be faster alternatives to inheriting accounts, but overall, respecting Hong Kong's stringent AML regulations and preparedness with documentation is key to navigate the complex but necessary process of securing a corporate bank account.

As an entrepreneur or business looking to establish operations in Hong Kong, one of the critical requirements is setting up a corporate bank account. However, the process of opening a bank account in Hong Kong has become increasingly challenging in recent years, particularly since the implementation of stringent anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) regulations in 2016.

In light of these difficulties, some business owners have explored alternative routes, such as acquiring an existing company that already has a bank account in Hong Kong. The logic behind this approach is simple: if you purchase a company that has already been through the bank account opening process, you should be able to inherit the account, right? Well, not quite.

The Reality of Acquiring a Company with an Existing Bank Account


While the idea of buying a company with an existing bank account may seem appealing, the reality is that this approach is unlikely to work as intended. Banks in Hong Kong are highly vigilant when it comes to changes in ownership and control of companies, and they will scrutinize any such transactions very closely.


When you acquire a company with an existing bank account, the bank will be notified of the change in ownership and control. At this point, the bank will likely require the new owners or ultimate beneficial owners (UBOs) to undergo the same rigorous KYC and AML checks as if they were opening a new account from scratch.


The bank will want to verify the identities, sources of funds, and legitimacy of the new owners or UBOs, just as they would for a new account application. This process may involve requesting various documents, such as proof of identity, proof of address, source of funds declarations, and potentially even in-person interviews or site visits.


If the new owners or UBOs fail to satisfy the bank's due diligence requirements, the bank has the right to terminate the existing bank account or refuse to transfer the account to the new owners. In essence, acquiring a company with an existing bank account does not guarantee that you will be able to retain that account or avoid the standard account opening process.


The Challenges of Opening a Bank Account in Hong Kong


It's important to understand the reasons behind the stringent bank account opening requirements in Hong Kong. The city has long been a major international financial hub, and as such, it has implemented robust AML and KYC measures to combat money laundering, terrorism financing, and other financial crimes.


Banks in Hong Kong are required by law to perform thorough due diligence on all account holders, including verifying their identities, sources of funds, and the legitimacy of their business activities. This process can be time-consuming and complex, particularly for foreign individuals or companies with complex ownership structures or opaque sources of funds.


Additionally, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) and other regulatory bodies have been increasing pressure on banks to enhance their AML and KYC controls, which has led many banks to adopt a more conservative approach when onboarding new clients.


While the process of opening a bank account in Hong Kong may be challenging, it is not impossible. By working with experienced corporate service providers and ensuring that you have all the necessary documentation and information readily available, you can navigate the process more smoothly.


Alternative Solutions for Hong Kong Bank Account Opening


Instead of pursuing the acquisition of an existing company solely for the purpose of obtaining a bank account, there are alternative solutions that may be more effective and less risky.


Finding a Professional Firm That Can Help You Get A Bank Account

Reputable firms like ATHENASIA have established relationships with banks in Hong Kong and can assist with the bank account opening process. From the application process to going to the bank with you, our staff can guide you through the documentation requirements, liaise with the bank on your behalf, and help streamline the process. Schedule a free consultation here to learn more about our Guaranteed Bank Account Opening Service


Leverage Online Banking Solutions

In recent years, there has been a rise in online banking solutions and digital banking platforms that cater to businesses and entrepreneurs worldwide. Fintech solutions that carry the MSO Licsense in Hong Kong, like Airwallex and Currenxie have become a very popular option for businesses due to their ease of use and userfriendly modern solutions.


Consider Other Jurisdictions

Depending on your specific business needs and requirements, you may explore the option of opening a bank account in another jurisdiction that has more favorable banking regulations. Many entrepreneurs and companies choose to establish bank accounts in jurisdictions like Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, or certain European countries, which may have more accommodating banking environments.



Conclusion

While the idea of acquiring an existing company with a bank account in Hong Kong may seem like a shortcut, it is important to understand that banks will still require the new owners or UBOs to undergo the full KYC and AML checks. Ultimately, this approach is unlikely to circumvent the standard bank account opening process.


By taking a proactive and compliant approach, and being prepared to provide all necessary documentation and information, you can increase your chances of successfully opening a bank account in Hong Kong or finding a suitable alternative solution.

Remember, Hong Kong's stringent banking regulations are in place to maintain the integrity of the financial system and protect against illicit activities. While the process may be challenging, it is essential to respect these regulations and work within the established framework.




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