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Crucial Insights for Navigating the Singapore Banking System for Business Setup

Singapore Banking System

The Singapore banking system boasts global recognition for its exceptional security and unwavering stability. Within Singapore, banks fall into two categories: domestic and foreign institutions. The Monetary Authority of Singapore oversees all commercial banks operating in the country. 

This article provides an overview of the structure of the Singapore banking system and introduces an emerging category of banks in this dynamic city-state. 

Overview of the Singapore banking system 

Singapore’s reputation as a financial hub in Asia, with robust international connections, makes it a prime destination for company incorporation, attracting a multitude of local and foreign banks and businesses. 

The diverse spectrum of banks, including local banking groups, full banks, merchant banks, and offshore banks, plays a pivotal role in supporting this status. They not only accept deposits but also provide world-class financial services, under the watchful eye of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and in compliance with the Banking Act and Securities and Futures Act. 

Two key pillars strengthen the Singapore banking system’s exceptional success: 

  • Security and stability: Singapore consistently ranks among the world’s safest banking environments. This is a testament to the country’s unwavering commitment to the rule of law and anti-corruption measures, which extend to both domestic and foreign banks. 
  • High level of secrecy: The Banking Act, specifically in Section 47, guarantees customer confidentiality. Unless there is substantial evidence of tax evasion or financial misconduct, customer information remains protected from public disclosure. 

Indeed, Singapore’s banking sector is not only an integral part of its thriving economy but also a cornerstone of its global financial prominence. This sector, led by institutions like Standard Chartered, continues to uphold the country’s reputation as a secure and reliable financial hub in Asia. 

A rundown of the banking regulatory structure 

Before incorporating in Singapore, grasp its banking system regulations. This prevents surprises when opening a business bank account. All bills pass through Parliament to become laws, with the Monetary Authority of Singapore overseeing banking legislation. 

  • The Central Bank of Singapore 

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), established in 1971, is Singapore’s central bank, overseeing financial institutions. Its main functions are implementing monetary policies, managing foreign reserves, issuing currency, and overseeing payment systems. MAS ensures price stability and supports long-term economic development. 

incorporate in singapore

Key banking regulations 

These laws not only govern the banking sector but also cultivate its prominence as a global financial hub. Here are key acts that oversee Singapore’s banking system: 

  • Banking Act: Regulates banking activities. 
  • Securities and Futures Act: Governs the securities and derivatives sector. 
  • Payment Services Act: Addresses payment services. 
  • Monetary Authority of Singapore Act: Establishes and empowers the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to regulate the financial services industry in the country. 

Categories of banks in Singapore 

Understanding Singapore’s diverse banking network is essential for choosing the right banking solution for your business. In Singapore, there are two primary categories of banks: domestic and foreign. Generally, domestic banks have more freedom to offer services compared to foreign banks, but foreign banks have also expanded their operations due to Singapore’s liberalization program for the banking industry. 

Local banks: 

  • DBS: The largest bank in Southeast Asia, offering a wide range of services including savings accounts, mortgages, and a vast ATM network. 
  • UOB: A prominent bank with a global presence, known for its UOB One Account offering competitive interest rates. 
  • OCBC: The second-largest bank in Singapore, recognized for its Plus! Saving Account with no fall-below fees. 

Foreign banks: 

  • Full Banks (FB): These foreign banks have Qualifying Full Bank (QFB) status, allowing them to expand their services and join domestic shared ATM networks. Examples include HSBC, Bank of America, Bank of China, and Standard Chartered. 
  • Wholesale Banks (WB): These banks cater to large clients like government agencies and corporations, offering services such as currency conversion, mergers, acquisitions, and consulting. Examples include National Australia Bank Ltd. and Barclays Bank. 
  • Offshore Banks: Operating through domestic and Asian Currency Units, offshore banks function as branches of foreign banks. Examples include the Bank of Taiwan and Shinhan Bank. 
  • Merchant Banks: Governed by the MAS Act, merchant banks engage in various activities, including investment portfolio management and underwriting. They do not accept deposits from the public but work with banks, finance companies, shareholders, and controlled companies. Examples include Schroder & Co. (Asia) Ltd. and Siemens Bank GmbH Singapore Branch. 

Digital banking account and what it entails 

Digital banking is a new addition to the Singapore banking system, offering traditional banking services without physical branches. Customers can manage their finances via digital devices like smartphones. In 2020, MAS licensed four companies to launch digital banking in 2022, aiming to boost the digital economy and attract foreign investment. 

Categories of digital banking 

  • Digital Full Banks (DFB) offers retail and corporate banking services, including deposits, loans, and investments. Notable examples are the Grab-Singtel consortium and Sea Limited. 
  • Digital Wholesale Banks (DWB) focus on non-retail banking services for SMEs. Examples include Ant Group and a consortium comprising Greenland Financial Holdings, Linklogis Hong Kong, and Beijing Co-operative Equity Investment Fund Management.  

Advantages of digital banking for Singapore’s economy 

Digital banking gives an edge to the Singapore banking system in terms of developing a tech-driven service for fintech sector growth, extending banking to underbanked communities, expanding the digital banking industry through strategic partnerships with payment providers, and prompting traditional banks to accelerate digitalization and staff upskilling in a more competitive landscape. 

incorporate in singapore

Our assistance in navigating the Singapore banking system 

Premia TNC has established partnerships with major Singapore banks, including DBS and OCBC, as well as global institutions like Citibank, facilitating convenient company bank account openings. In addition, Premia TNC will be able to facilitate account openings with digital financial institutions and banks such as Aspire and Anext Bank. Moreover, clients can remotely initiate the process via video call meetings, eliminating the need for physical visits, pending the bank’s approval and review process. 

FAQs

1. Can foreigners open bank accounts in Singapore?

Yes, foreign individuals and businesses can open accounts, with requirements varying by bank.

2. Are deposits in Singapore banks safe?

Deposits are considered safe, with insurance coverage and a stable regulatory framework.

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