I frequent a number of online forums and offline conferences. I also have experience dealing with a number of offshore service providers (OSPs). One thing that strikes me as worrying when peers are discussing is how easily one person will recommend a bank.
Let me perfectly clear about this: choosing an offshore bank (or any bank for that matter) is a long and complicated process. Simplifying may hurt your business significantly in the long run.
How to Pick Offshore Bank
The first thing you need to do is to assess your own needs. What type of banking services do you need?
What will your account be used for? If you are accepting direct deposits from customers from Europe, they will likely appreciate it if you have an IBAN. Do you need some type of card product? Credit card, debit card – maybe both? Are you looking for a current account or perhaps savings, maybe even investments or trade? How much money do you have set aside for initial deposit?
Once you have a clear picture of your immediate as well as future (as far as you can plan) banking needs, it’s time to head over to the next step, which is to determine suitable jurisdictions.
Do you need a bank in a specific region? How important is political stability? Political freedoms? Taxes? Consider everything from the political situation to climate to stability of the jurisdiction. Does the reputation of the jurisdiction matter to you?
Different jurisdictions offer different degrees of banking secrecy. Also consider if the jurisdiction has any relevant double taxation agreements (DTA) or tax information exchange agreements (TIEA); whether you are looking to take advantage of them or want to avoid them.
You should now have a good understanding of your banking requirements and a list of a handful of suitable jurisdictions.
Next up is to find a list of banks in each jurisdiction. Central banks and financial services authorities often have links on their websites.
Go through every single bank’s website and relevant sources of information and read about their services, fees, opening hours, customer service languages, support methods (mail, chat, phone, messaging), age of the bank, financial statements, mentions in media, minimum balance requirements, and whatever else you can use to filter out banks.
Once you have a shortlist of banks, it is time to talk to the bank.
I usually start by phoning the bank or submit a request on their website for a phone consultation. As I wrote in my post titled “How to Open an Offshore Bank Account“, I am in favour of visiting the bank in person; at least if I plan to use the account for anything serious.
When it comes to opening offshore bank accounts remotely, my experience is that almost any banks will do it but some only do it under very special circumstances. Generally speaking, Caribbean, Mauritius, and some European (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Latvia) open accounts remotely for anyone who can fill in an application form and provide the correct documentation, whereas Asian and Middle Eastern banks are more in favour of meeting the client in person. That said – it doesn’t hurt to ask.
I wouldn’t waste my time visiting banks in for example Belize, though. It’s generally speaking a waste of time and some won’t even let you visit them.
At this point, you have probably spent a couple of hours over a number of days or weeks researching banks and you should have picked your offshore bank.