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Open a Bank Account

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Opening a corporate bank account in the Netherlands for non-residential entrepreneurs can be challenging. Especially during the startup phase of the company, while it has no actual presence in the Netherlands yet.

in overall, Dutch (although this is a global trend) banks have lost their appetite in 'international corporate clients’. Especially, since ING (but later also ABN Amro)  was fined with a 775 million penalty due to failures in the execution of the Know Your Client regulations.


But luckily there are solutions. Such as Bunq.com for European entrepreneurs, or Money Institutions like Transferwise, Ebury, Centtrip.com and 3S Money.


ABN Amro has a non-resident department for companies that expect to operate in the Dutch market, but are not doing so yet. However this department is focused on turnovers exceeding 1.5 million EUR per year, or higher.


In this article we tell you more about the options to open a bank account in the Netherlands.

So, what does that mean for you as a foreign entrepreneur?

 

Most Dutch banks don’t have an official policy to reject foreign entrepreneurs as a client. Having said that, foreign entrepreneurs need to consider that most banks are welcoming high net-worth individuals or companies that require financing. The reason for this is because these services result in turnover for the bank. Which means the bank is able to invest in the relationship.


The fact is that in most countries, the banking system is structured in a way that causes very limited income for the banks on Corporate Banking, while the risks can be substantial.


In case you get rejected, you might want to focus on obtaining a bank account in Luxembourg or Switzerland. The banks in these countries have altered their business model for Corporate Banking. This means you will pay higher maintenance fees and Know Your Client fees, but it will significantly increase your chances of obtaining a bank account for your European/Dutch company.

Introduction in Banking (in the Netherlands)

 

Dutch banks, as everywhere in the world, specializing in various different products and services, meaning that not every bank is capable and eager to accept all kinds of clients.

Same as everywhere, there are Private, Retail, Investment, Mortgage, Leasing, Saving and many more different service-oriented banks, which deal with very specific kinds of clients in order to bring and derive maximum value.


Most of the major banks, like ING, ABN Amro, Rabobank, SNS, etc., are recognized as retail banks, yet most of them also have affiliated subsidiaries, which focus on more specific operations, like for example, MeesPierson is the Private Banking arm of ABN Amro.


The difference here is that as an entrepreneur in the Netherlands, you should rather focus on building a relationship with a Retail Bank, than with a Private Bank, as Private Banks typically have quite an extensive turnover, account balance, and bank product use requirements, which are not fulfillable by an SME company, and can damage your liquidity (for example in order to open an account with the Private Banking arm of ING Bank, you should expect to invest or deposit at least 500 000 EUR!).


Most of our clients have taken this consideration into the account and did account applications with the major Retail Banks, as their acceptance procedure is more affordable.

The Client Acceptance Procedure of Dutch Banks

 

The acceptance procedure slightly varies from bank to bank, yet there are certain major points to mention in order to sum it all up.


  • In the Netherlands the application is done based on an interview basis, hence you should keep in mind, that often doing a pre-check or having a discussion with a Private Banker / Account Manager is not possible prior to submitting your application

  • Most banks only accept companies incorporated by Dutch Company Law or even companies managed by Dutch nationals.

  • It is possible to apply for a corporate bank account in the Netherlands, without being a resident yourself. Though you should expect to arrange certain things prior to the application, like for example arranging a social security number for the members of the board.

  • The interview then can result in several outcomes, which can be generally divided in the following categories: Account is Opened after the Interview; the Bank initiates a more enhanced compliance procedure (typically would mean that the answer will be provided within the next 2 weeks); a Client gets Rejected by the Bank after the Interview.

  • The decision on the account opening is always made by the bank, hence there is no realistic way that a third party could anyhow affect the procedure and guarantee a solution, which is often claimed by corporate service providers around the world.

  • As per the policies of the European Union, any bank has a right NOT to express the reason of rejection of a client, hence typically you would never know why it occurred (if occurred)

  • Nevertheless of a common misconception, if a bank does reject you it does not always mean something bad, and typically you can apply for the account opening at the same bank in about 6 months of time.

What are the things you should bear in mind prior to applying for a bank account?

 

​Though there is no restriction on non-residents in Dutch banks, every entrepreneur, who owns a Dutch company and aims for a Dutch bank account, should bear in mind that banks strongly prefer clients, who have invested in their Dutch operations, hence it is more likely to become a client of a bank in case if your company has a physical office and/or has employees/management based in the Netherlands.


Frequently such arguments have a flip-side question: “How shall I start my local operations, without a local account? How can I pay up my expenses?” - First of all, you should understand that this is more of a practical, not legal issue, as a Dutch Company is not obliged to have a Bank Account located in the Netherlands. We have elaborated on the alternatives to a classic bank account further in the post, but at this stage, this comes to more of a practical narrative of whether this could possibly be a reason for a bank to consider you as a client.


Long story short the answer would be “No” because there is also no legal requirement for a company to reach levels of physical substance within the Netherlands in order for a bank to accept it as a client. Banks can work with “shell” companies with literally no physical presence in the Netherlands, but of course acceptance procedure of such companies revolves around due diligence procedure way more than for a “resident company”.


What plays a role here is the fact that banks just feel more comfortable while dealing with companies with local substance, but it does not mean that you should definitely aim towards building the substance, in case if it not in line with your business model/plan.

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Alternative Banking for a Dutch Company

 

As you already know from this article - a Dutch Company is not obliged to have a local bank account, which results in many positive advantages for foreign entrepreneurs. Not only many businessmen are reluctant to start a new relationship with such a strategic partner like a Bank, as they already have a well-sustained relationship with another bank, but also many entrepreneurs’ ambitions pull off due to the reason that they do not want to invest additional time and money for the opening of a local bank account. This said we would like to provide some food for thought about alternative banking for a Dutch company.


Taking into account the rapidly changing finance industry in the EU, there are many alternatives, which can substitute a traditional bank account. In the table below, we would like to present the most commonly used alternatives for a traditional local bank account and some advantages of considering this or that alternative.

 

Mobile Banking

Nowadays mobile banking is a billion-euro industry. There are quite some major reliable players already in place, like for example Bunq Bank and N26 Bank to name but a few.


In case if you have a biometric passport, the account opening would take only a couple of minutes of your time.


  • Transfer costs are very low in mobile banks EU deposit guarantee covers mobile banks, as they possess a fully-fledged banking license

  • Accounts are opened remotely (via a video chat)

  • The acceptance procedure is quite down to earth

  • In case if you don’t aim to use complex banking products like Letter of Credit; Trade Financing; Incasso etc., the mobile bank would be more suitable, as having a traditional bank account is a bit of an “overkill” with such convenient tech available

Payment Institution (PI) / sometimes called fintech

 

Payment Institution differs from a bank slightly, as typically it is an institution, which possesses a PI license, not a banking license, yet can execute transfers, issue payment cards and issue IBAN numbers (typically facilitated by another bank)


The pros of a PI are quite the same as for a Mobile Bank, yet PIs typically are more flexible in transferring funds and often do not have limitations. A PI can often send funds to more locations than a mobile bank could, as they use payment facilities of other banks, which might have a wider correspondent bank network than a standalone mobile bank, as well as to have more currencies available

Banking in your own country / existing bank

 

Opening up an account with your current bank is often an unexplored opportunity for international entrepreneurs, as often there are certain requirements of having a local account in various popular expansion-jurisdictions around the world.

Taking into account the previously covered fact of your Dutch company not being obliged to have a local account, after all, banking in your own country is a sound alternative to investing in a new strategic partnership in a previously unknown country.

Working with a bank, who already knows you as a reliable client and understands your business is always more convenient. 


Moreover, there is a higher chance that your current bank would allow you to use complex banking products for your new company, as they already have seen your track record with your main accounts.

Many entrepreneurs open sub-accounts or independent accounts for the new company in their existing bank, not only for business reasons, but also for the practical reasons of speaking in their own language, working with a previously known account manager/banker, and being able to contact the bank during the working hours in your home country

Banking in another country (not your home country) / Banking with a Private Bank

 

Banking in countries like Luxembourg, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, as well as others, always was a common decision to make for foreign entrepreneurs. Although the cost of opening such an account might be quite high, you can always rely on the quality of the services you get.


Such worldwide renowned banking hubs like Switzerland, Singapore, Luxembourg, and others, typically have a very high quality of services, personal approach and flexibility, which a retail bank would not be able to deliver. Having an account with a Private Bank always means that you will get the right attention and problem solved, as Private Banks have occupied the niche of being the boutique service providers.


The costs of opening and maintaining a Private Bank account can be higher than in a retail bank, however, the added value you get can be seen with a bare eye.

Costs & Facilities

 

Every bank offers different facilities and fees. We have great relationships with different banks in different regions. So whatever your needs and budget, we’ll be able to find you a bank that works best for you!


Below is a list of the most common features that the banks we work with provide:


  • Online banking

  • Free bank cards accepted worldwide

  • Instant online customer service chat

  • Online share trading on all well-known exchange markets

  • Low transaction costs

  • Private banking

  • Attractive investment interest

  • Personal advice from a dedicated account manager

  • Anonymous payments and deposits

  • Privacy of personal data

  • Private & Merchant Bank Account


Although we do recognize the needs and desires of many international entrepreneurs to have a local bank account, we also always say that the location of your bank accounts should not anyhow affect your growth ambitions, and after all a bank account is just a tool for performing your activity, but should not play a major role during your international expansion.

 

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