Most overseas companies trading or beginning to trade in the UK will require a UK bank account to conduct business. It is not a legal requirement to have a UK based bank account to trade in the UK. For practical reasons it makes sense to have a locally domiciled account. Setting up a UK bank account for overseas owned companies can be very onerous and frustrating when you try and handle the process yourself, without prior experience of the UK banking regime.
What’s involved to open a UK bank account for an overseas company?
If undertaken without experience or knowledge of opening an account in the UK the process will be painful, frustrating and can be lengthy depending on the ownership structure of the UK company. It is possible to open a UK based account for an overseas company in the UK without setting up a UK company – in various currencies.
Don’t do it yourself – it will be painful and time consuming!
UK banks must undertake customer due diligence, prior to setting up a bank account for their new customers. This is part of the anti-money laundering (AML) regime and is a key requirement of the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 in the UK.
Key shareholders (usually 25% or more) together with those individuals who will be named on the UK bank mandate will be asked to prove their identity and home address, with documents such as these:
- Proof of ID: passport, UK photo driving license or national ID card
- Two forms of Proof of address: recent bank statement or utility bill, or council tax statement.
If you’re applying from abroad, you will be asked to provide notarised translations of your ID and documents used to prove your address. If any of these documents are not in English, they will need to be translated.
See our Checklist for Opening a UK bank account for further information on what is involved.
How long does it take to open an account?
In our experience it can take anywhere from 2 to 6 months. With our support, it will take approximately two months from start to finish to establish a UK based bank account. The directors do not need to present themselves in the UK to establish the account, however this can expedite the process.
You do not need to be a UK resident director to establish a bank account.
If companies attempt to open a UK bank account themselves, the unfamiliarity of the UK system will cause frustration resulting in companies trading in a home-jurisdiction based bank account, leading to FX conversions ending in more headaches for the accountant involved in preparing year-end accounts. Let us handle the strain for you, we know what we’re doing!
We handle the bank account opening process on behalf of our clients and work with multiple banking partners. Every aspect is handled – data gathering, form completion, liaison with the banking partner. Our clients only see the forms once they are completed and ready for “wet” signing by those individuals required.
We are usually appointed as Company Secretary with our address acting as your Registered Office – this supports the bank account opening process, as there is a UK based officer of the Company – the bank’s favour this where there are no UK based resident directors or shareholders.
As a professional service firm, we are also required to carry out checks on our clients before we can act on their behalf. These checks, known as “Know Your Client” procedures, consist primarily of identification of the client, the source of their funding and their ultimate beneficial owner(s).
The main UK banks will usually accept the due diligence procedures we perform on our clients’ behalf and, with your permission, we pass the information onto the chosen bank, thereby reducing the time involved in opening the UK bank account.