Opening a bank account in EU – mission impossible?

Opening a bank account in EU – mission impossible?

Bank Account
18 May 2020

If you are not a resident of an EU country and want to open a personal bank account, or if you are a management board member of the EU company, but you reside elsewhere, opening a bank account in the EU can be a major problem.

Due to recent scandals regarding money laundering in the European Union, banks are stricter with their client on-boarding policies. In Estonia, there have been several cases where promising startups with good revenue flow were experiencing difficulties with their already established bank accounts. The reason was that the management board members were not residents of Estonia. If an existing company with a bank account experiences problem, then for new businesses it may be a significant challenge to have an account opened. For banks, it is safer to decline the application rather than taking on a new customer who may be potentially a higher risk.

You should be also ready to pay for a special fee during bank account opening which is usually non-refundable. This is the fee to process your application, to check the submitted documents, and to render a decision. Moreover, if a decision is negative, banks will not and are not required to give a reason. They usually respond with a basic “no”.

The burden of proof that there are no risks relies on the person. An applicant must prove to a bank that they are trustworthy and are reputable. Otherwise, the chances to open a bank account is low.

However, it does not mean one should not try. To have higher chances for account to be successfully approved and opened, you should be ready to prepare all necessary documents, be willing to disclose information about the company, UBOs, financial balances, and other requested information. If a company operates in the financial sector, banks want to see a thorough AML/KYC procedure in place.

An alternative to a traditional bank account would be an account held in an e-money institution (EMI) which is enough for business operations. There are many EMIs or “Fintech” companies in the EU. Some of them focus on those companies and individuals that have troubles with traditional banks. Such companies may have higher risk appetites and may be willing to accept non-residents, crypto businesses, etc. Along with this, they are more flexible and often offer the lower fees.

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