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Opening an account in a European bank: how to do it and what is it for?

Opening an account in a European bank: how to do it and what is it for?


An account in a financial institution in Europe no longer seems like a fantastic idea to our compatriots. The services of a foreign bank may be required by both individuals and companies. Organizations need the services of European banks for the convenience of payments after entering large foreign markets.


The situation in foreign banking is changing rapidly and not for the better. Pressure from international organizations, numerous information exchange agreements and reciprocal economic sanctions have changed the banking market beyond recognition.


Previously, financial institutions in Europe fought uncompromisingly for each client, offered favorable terms and worked even with offshore companies. Now the situation is diametrically opposite: a corporate or private client, will have to work very hard to prove his reliability and to sign a service contract with a European bank. 

The main advantages of a European bank account

When we talk about financial institutions in Europe, first of all we mean banks of the European Union, as well as non-member countries such as Great Britain, Switzerland, Montenegro, etc.

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  • Advantages for companies

  • Ease of payments abroad with partners, suppliers and customers.

  • The possibility of issuing corporate bank cards.

  • The reliability and convenience of European bank accounts.

  • Absence of the state currency control measures.

  • Opening of the foreign currency bank account in one country for settlements with counterparties from another European country.

  • Advantages for individuals

  • Easy to use for those who have received a residence permit, are employed or have their own real estate in European countries.

  • Reliability of the banking system and, as a consequence, the ability to save and increase personal savings in accounts in time-tested financial institutions in Europe.


Three types of bank accounts in banks in Europe

Depending on the tasks you have to do, you can open 3 types of bank accounts in Europe:


1. A deposit or savings account - designed to save and increase the money you have deposited. The client puts his money in the bank for a term specified in the contract, and the bank pays interest on the balance in the savings account.


As a rule, such banking products are not designed for settlements. Moreover, the contract may stipulate penalties for customers who withdraw funds early.


An investment account is designed for investing in different types of securities or financial products. Depending on the bank, the client has the option to invest on their own, with the advice of an investment manager or transfer the management of funds to the bank under one of the proposed strategies.


3. A current account, on the other hand, is not suitable for long-term storage of funds and is designed, as the name implies, for quick and convenient non-cash payments. For servicing such an account, banks charge a fee and/or require the client to keep a certain amount on it at all times - a minimum balance. Moreover, banks usually issue bank cards for such accounts, which can be used to pay around the world.


How to choose a European bank to open an account?

As mentioned above, in today's environment European financial institutions have too many questions and requirements for potential clients. Sometimes it can take a lot of time and effort to sign a corporate service agreement with such a bank.


To open an account with a European bank with attractive terms of service, you need to study the information and find answers to your questions:


  • How do customers and independent experts rate this bank, how reliable is it, and what are its key financial indicators?

  • How much will the banking products you need cost? Are all of the tools you need included in the base cost of service, or are they available for an additional fee?

  • Does the chosen institution have the option of opening a checking account? What offers are available for deposit accounts?

  • What national currencies does this bank work with? Is it possible to open multi-currency accounts? What are the internal exchange rates for buying and selling currencies? How close are they to the stock exchange rates?

  • How does the chosen bank deal with companies of foreign origin and non-resident individuals? Are there any restrictions on dealing with corporate clients operating in your field or registered in your jurisdiction?

Open a UK bank account

The United Kingdom is rightly proud of its strong economy, year after year being in the top five most attractive for investment. London is one of the recognized financial capitals of the world, so the variety of products and services offered by local banks does not seem so surprising.

Financial institutions of Great Britain are exceptionally reliable, as well as convenient and well-coordinated processes. An additional advantage is also a relatively low cost of account maintenance in banks of England.


The best option for the company would be large retail banks that provide favorable conditions for business cooperation, for example, free maintenance for the first year or two. And for personal purposes, private English banks have more interesting offers.


In short, all good banking system of the British kingdom, except for one thing - the extreme difficulty of opening a private and corporate account in an English bank for foreign residents. And although in recent years the British have noticeably simplified the procedure of entering into service agreements, you can hardly open an account in a retail British bank for a company of foreign origin registered in the Kingdom on your own.


Therefore, in this case, as a rule, foreign residents resort to the services of local agents who can get a business address for your British company to open a corporate current account in a bank in England.


Open a bank account in Europe

Sometimes, after weighing up the pros and cons, it is not worth spending a lot of time on opening a bank account in England, and open an account at a European bank. The more so that the choice of countries and banking products for individuals and legal entities is really impressive, and accounts in Europe are still much easier to open, although the conditions for prospective customers are getting tougher from year to year.


The following list reflects the peculiarities of opening and maintaining a bank account, depending on the European country:


  • The Baltics (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) - banks focus on Russian-speaking customers, the convenience of opening an account and service. There may be requirements for connection to the bank's country.

  • Cyprus - opportunity to work with offshore companies.

  • Eastern and Central Europe (Hungary, Poland, etc.) - low interest rates on loans, investment security.

  • Western Europe (Switzerland, Austria, Germany) - exceptional reliability and security, high cost of service.

  • Balkan region (Montenegro, Bulgaria, etc.) - state insurance of deposits, operations in euros, no currency control, low cost of services.

If you are looking for a bank in Europe to open a current account for an offshore company, in most of these jurisdictions, unfortunately, it will be impossible. Although there are European banks that are willing to work with such corporate clients, but on their own terms, not always favorable for you. For more information on the pros, cons and other peculiarities of opening an account with banks in Europe you can read


Standard procedure for opening a bank account in Europe

Selection of a European bank with the most suitable service conditions.

Personal visit to the office of the bank you are interested in or meeting with bank representatives in your country.

Is it necessary or not to go abroad to open a bank account in Europe? It depends on the country the bank is registered in. For example, to open an account with an English bank, you will not only need to travel to meet in the UK, but also have the support of knowledgeable lawyers. In the case of banks in Cyprus, Latvia, Montenegro and even Switzerland, all necessary procedures can be carried out remotely.

Competently fill out bank forms and documents and provide a full set of documents requested by the bank.

In Europe, there is no standard limiting the term of consideration of foreign resident's application for opening a bank account, but it usually takes more than 2 months.

Opening a bank account, providing the client with an identification number, online banking tools, plastic card issuance.

What is Due Diligence?

In a free translation, this principle sounds like "due diligence" - a requirement relevant not only to the banking industry, but to all Western businesses. By conducting due diligence, in order to open a corporate account, European banks may ask you not only for a standard set of documents of your company, but also:

  • a description of your business;

  • Details of counterparties that will be involved in future settlements;

  • The approximate annual volume of transactions on the bank account to be opened in monetary and quantitative terms;

  • complete information on the beneficiaries of your company, including home address and country of tax residency;

  • All other information about the company and its founders, which is necessary for the bank employee to make a proper decision on your application.

Following the same principle of Due Diligence the European bank may unilaterally terminate cooperation with you and close the account if you are not able to explain the origin of income or start making payments on unknown, at the stage of account opening reasons which are not stipulated by the bank.


As you can see, the process of opening a bank account in the UK or Europe has many nuances and may require a considerable amount of time and effort, but with a competent approach the task is quite solvable, the main thing is to pay the utmost attention to all the details.