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How to get a bank account in Hong Kong

June 15, 2018

The important thing to understand about getting a bank account is that you are dealing with banking bureaucrats that cannot think.  They are programmed to respond to certain ways given certain conditions, and they will get very confused if you give them a situation which they have not been programmed to handle.  They will ask for more data which will confuse them even more.

So in order to get a Hong Kong bank account, the easiest thing to do is to find someone that is based on Hong Kong have them set up a HK corporation with they being the sole owner.  When you go to the bank, they will ask you two questions “what is your business?” and “what will you use the account for?”  The answers are “computer consulting” (or “biotech consulting” or whatever), and you will use your account for normal business operations.  You will have more luck if you go to a bank that caters to local businesses (i.e. Hang Seng or Nanyang Commercial Bank).  You will also have more luck if the person opening the account is a Cantonese-speaker and is good at sales and marketing.

Once you’ve set up the bank account, then you build out the company.  You set up so that you have identical boards of directors, and also set up a contract between companies A and B.  You want to avoid ownership changes until everything is running.  At that point the bank will ask more questions, but unless something is really bad, they are unlikely to close the bank account.

This will work if you are running an “ordinary” high tech company.  Anything involving fintech is hard, and anything involving payments is really, really hard.

The alternatives is to open a bank account in Singapore.  It turns out that you can do banking transfers between Singapore and Hong Kong in two hours.  The other alternative is to just buy a dead company with a bank account.  The market price for a dead company is USD 30k.  The thing is that it takes about six months for the bank to notice and then if you are doing anything weird, they’ll close the account.  At that point you just buy another company.  One reason I get so impatient and sometimes angry at the system is that I spend a lot of time with professional money movers, and they know all of the tricks, so they’ll just go from company to company, and all of this bureaucracy is merely annoying.

One thing that someone in Cyberport and Science Park should do is to recycle dead companies.  If you are moving money and you buy a defunct company, then your account will get shut down.  If you are a Science Park biotech company that buys the assets of another Science Park biotech company, there is at least the possibility that the account will survive.

Things should get a lot easier over the next six months.  There are a number of crypto-solutions that are in the pipe.  All the tech is there, but they aren’t user friendly.



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