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Top 5 reasons why Singapore is a prime banking destination

September 2012

The late 2000s have seen unprecedented numbers of bank closures and failures around the world. Since the starting of October 2002 till date, around 160 banks have closed down in the United States alone according to the data published by The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation [1]. Reliable numbers are unfortunately unavailable for the rest of the world. In this context, it would great to introduce banking in Singapore. We provide below the top 5 reasons why banking in Singapore is world class and a desirable option for the rest of the world.

1. Emerging destination for private wealth management
It is interesting to note that the island nation of Singapore manages around 5% of the world’s total private wealth. The New York Times reported as early as 2008 that Singapore is fast rising as the prime destination for private wealth management [2]. This is still way below that which is managed by Swiss banking institutions, but still is a noteworthy achievement looking at the fact that Singapore is perhaps one of the newest players in the private wealth management market. Banking in Singapore has remained competitive and sophisticated over the past decade which saw the country emerge as a forceful competitor in the foreign investments market. Singapore is determined to become a primary spot in the Asian sub-continent for foreign investors and foreign businesses.

2. Bank Safety
Singapore banks are known among the safest in the world. For the year 2011, an annual survey conducted by Global Finance magazine has ranked Singapore’s DBS bank in the 19th place followed by OCBC Bank (Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation a 100% Singapore owned entity) at 25th position and the United Overseas Bank (UOB) at 26th position way ahead of bigger and older players like JP Morgan Chase, Deutsche Bank and Barclays as the safest banks around the world. These banks rank at positions 1, 2 and 3 for the same survey conducted for the Asian subcontinent.

Also to be noted is the fact that Singapore has never had a bank failure – EVER! In its 43 year history even when times were turbulent and the world was in chaos.

3. Banking Secrecy
Secrecy maintained by Singaporean banks is another feature to notice. Singapore has developed its banking secrecy laws over the past decade and it now allows freer exchange of tax information between participating nations. Banking Secrecy in Singapore is mainly governed under the Banking Act (Cap 19) of Singapore. A revision made to the law has introduced a new Section 47 of the Banking Act (Cap 19, 2003 Rev Ed) which allows for banks in Singapore to exchange information for reasons such as willful tax evasion [3]. At the same time, Singapore does not welcome any enquiry from private institutions or parties, the inquiries have to be made by public institutions and should be supported by strong and reliable documentation to prove a case of tax evasion.

4. Banking facilities
Singapore, being a nation where English is the main business language has well supported banking systems to cater to the needs of individuals and business around the globe. You will be able to access first class banking from the comfort of your home using internet and phone banking facilities. Accounts can be opened and maintained in multi currency and is available for all major currencies. There are many opportunities available for those of you who want to hedge against and play on devaluations for the dollar, euro or other majors.

VISA/ MasterCard powered debit cards are available for most bank accounts which makes transacting around the world a breeze. Exchange controls are minimal for remittance and repatriation to and from the country.

5. Bank opening for foreign individuals and overseas companies
Many banks in Singapore like Citibank and HSBC bank allows individuals from other nations to open bank accounts even though they may not be resident in Singapore. It is noteworthy that the minimum balance requirements for foreign individuals are generally 50-75% higher than stipulated for locals. There are also facilities offered by these major banks to ensure that bank opening can be done by individuals without actually travelling to Singapore. Such facilities are a definite add-on if you are opting for premium account facilities wherein you put in an investment of SGD 1 million and above.

Singapore also allows bank accounts to be opened for overseas companies like ones based in the British Virgin Islands or Seychelles. A personal visit by the beneficial owner of the enterprise is desired to ensure bank opening is done quickly and all documentation is provided and made up to date. This would ensure that your Singapore bank account is up and running within 7 to 10 working days.

Here we have elaborated the top five reasons why Singapore should be considered as a prime banking destination. Though Hong Kong is more popular as an Asia hub for wealth management, Singapore is a close second and the popularity of the small island nation seems to be growing. [4] For corporates and individuals who are looking at safe, reliable banking, Singapore seems to be the easy solution.

[1] www.fdic.gov – website of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, USA
[2] New York Times Article on private wealth management in Singapore
[2] Private wealth management Singapore
[3] Banking Secrecy laws – Singapore (amended)
[4] Asian countries now more popular for banking and business

Article by www.servolve.com.

About the author:
To further discuss your banking or business options please feel free to contact Servolve, Singapore.
Servolve is an organization of independent accounting and legal professionals who assist with corporate solutions in Singapore.

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