Dubai corporate bank accounts in 2020
Since 2003, Healy Consultants Group PLC helps multi-national Clients open multi-currency corporate bank accounts in Dubai for both local and overseas companies.
Our Dubai team will project manage the multi-currency corporate bank account opening process, including preparing a quality business plan for our Client’s business.
We recommend our multi-national Clients read this web page to avoid bank surprises later!
Table of Dubai banking problems and solutions
No. Dubai banking problem Solution 1.
Dubai banks are choosy about onboarding non-UAE registered entities, and the process is difficult and costly. Dubai banks prefer customers with a local presence and economic substance.
Dubai banks will ask foreign registered companies to legalise corporate KYC documents with the UAE embassy in the country of origin. This can be very costly as embassy fees are as high as US$800 for each document.
Since 2003, Healy Consultants Group PLC has built quality banking relationships with Dubai banks. Local banks trust and welcome our multi-national Clients. A quality business plan is a big help.
As back up, Healy Consultants simultaneously contacts multiple banks, to minimise completion timeframe.
Healy Consultants Group PLC has a guaranteed corporate bank account approval policy.
Healy Consultants Group PLC Client travel policy will apply (click link). Our staff will organise the bank meeting in our Dubai office and assist our Client during the bank interview(s).
Before bank account numbers are issued, our Client must travel to Dubai for a one-hour interview with the bank officer. No exceptions.
Our staff will organise the bank meeting in our Dubai office and assist our Client during the bank interview(s).
Global banks continue to tighten corporate bank account opening procedures, their internal compliance departments completing more thorough due diligence of Clients. Consequently, our Clients should expect bank account approval to take on average 8 weeks.
If our Client requires a bank account at short notice, we recommend an immediate Dubai solution (ready-made UAE company plus already-approved Dubai corporate bank account).
Depending on the business activity, banks now require proof of business in the UAE, including sales contracts or lease agreement.
Healy Consultants will help our Client meet UAE Economic Substance Requirements.
Dubai banks consider tax haven entities to be high risk customers, and do not welcome corporate bank account applications from these potential Clients.
The majority of Dubai banks only provide telephone support during Dubai business hours. This is inconvenient for multi-national Clients in Asia Pacific or the USA.
Healy Consultants Group PLC staff assist our multinational Clients with bank communication, regardless of time zones.
Just like the majority of international banks, it is common for UAE banks to close corporate bank accounts, without giving an open, transparent reason to their customers. To close a customer bank account without giving the bank signatory an opportunity to explain ‘unusual transactions activity in the corporate bank account’ is an unfair, unreasonable action which places our multi-national Clients' business under stress.
We recommend our multi-national Clients open multiple multi-currency corporate bank accounts for their entity. It is unwise to open one corporate bank account and have your business be dependent on one bank.
As we advance deeper into a global depression, it will become more common for banks to experience financial difficulties. Consequently, multi-national Clients should expect i) small banks to go bankrupt and ii) small to medium-sized banks to be bought over by top tier banks. The number of banks operating in each country will get smaller, exposing our multi-national Clients to financial risk. Dubai bank deposits are not insured to protect depositors’ money.
For each of their entities, we recommend our multi-national Clients open multiple multi-currency corporate bank accounts across multiple countries. Spread your funds across multiple corporate bank accounts in multiple top-tier banks in multiple different countries. Avoid small banks including PSPs FSPs and digital banks. Ensure each bank offers customer deposit insurance.
The Dubai banking sector
Healy Consultants Group PLC’s summary view
- Dubai is a global financial centre, with a well-regulated, stable banking system. Dubai is a global financial centre, with a well-regulated, stable banking system. Historically, Dubai is seen as a ‘safe haven’ for capital flows from conflict zones in the Middle East, Africa and West Asia, Russia and India. The UAE Central Bank has a reputation for maintaining the stability of the UAE financial system. The UAE dirham has been pegged to the US dollar since 1980.
- Dubai’s economy and banking system is vulnerable to i) regional conflict and uncertainty and ii) international efforts to combat the financing of terror and money laundering iii) low oil prices iv) declining real estate prices in the city and v) overseas visitors spending money in the city and vi) a healthy global economy and vii) meeting large national debt repayments (one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world). Unfortunately, all of these negative forces are in play now and 2020 was a bad year for the UAE, including a 74% fall in foreign direct investment, a 32% drop in international trade, and a 63% drop in international passenger traffic. If this trend continues, 2021 will bring big changes in the Dubai financial sector.
- Historically, Dubai banks are well capitalised, comfortably exceeding minimum regulatory requirements. All five large banks were able to maintain 30 days’ liquidity coverage well above 100%. The total assets of the 18 listed UAE national banks rose to around US$816 billion in the first half of 2020, up 8.2% on the same period in 2019.
- Despite the above, in a challenging operating environment post-COVID-19, we predict more bank mergers in Dubai. This is likely to result in greater short-term instability in the city’s financial system.
- In July 2020, foreign currency reserves in UAE were US$96.4 billion, 4% lower than in July 2019. The UAE government’s sovereign credit rating is Aa2 (Moody’s), AA with stable outlook (Standard & Poor’s) and AA with stable outlook (Fitch).
- Dubai bank deposits are not insured. That said, in practice the UAE government has, in the past, intervened to protect depositors’ money, and is unlikely to allow any local banks to fail.
- Because business is slow and banks are looking to cut costs, we expect many physical branches to close across Dubai. Most banks in Dubai offer decent online services for multinational Clients.
- Dedicated digital banks are emerging in the city, offering services via app, and typically with lower transaction fees and service charges. Dubai’s banking sector will also move further towards mobile payments, artificial intelligence and blockchain in their services.
- Because of the impact of COVID-19 on business, low interest rates, rising bad debts and a downturn in demand for loans, we expect more Dubai banks to lay off staff in 2020. A May 2020 survey suggested that 70% of companies in Dubai expected to close within six months, because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
- The UAE and Iran are the only Gulf countries on America’s list of ‘major money-laundering jurisdictions’. The UAE i) is on the FATF ‘grey list’ and ii) scores poorly in a leading index of money-laundering risk in the table below.
Key information on the Dubai banking sector
- The UAE Central Bank regulates and supervises 38 commercial banks (23 of which have their country head office in Dubai), along with investment banks, Islamic banks, money changers, financial intermediaries, financial investment companies and investment companies. Nineteen foreign banks have regional headquarters in Dubai.
- Our corporate banking team enjoys excellent relationships with local and international banks in Dubai and will undertake the necessary banking steps on our Client’s behalf. Healy Consultants Group PLC works with internationally-recognised banks such as HSBC, Barclays, Standard Chartered, Citibank and major UAE banks such as Emirates NBD, Emirates Islamic, Noor Bank, Mashreq Bank and United Arab Bank. These banks offer the best internet banking and customer care. Relationships with these banks also simplify the process of opening new accounts as your business grows worldwide.
- In recent years, UAE banks have tightened lending criteria. Internal due diligence has also increased. However, the Central Bank currently allows banks to free up their regulatory capital buffers to boost lending capacity and support the UAE economy.
- As well as UAE dirham accounts, local banks offer accounts in multiple currencies, including US$, euros, sterling, and other global currencies.
- Dubai banks offer savings, deposits and checking accounts, online banking, currency exchange, foreign currency banking, wire transfers, ATM services, wealth management, loans, LCs, treasury, hedging and advisory services.
- Most banks in Dubai charge an account opening fee, and have minimum balance requirements. If the balance falls below the minimum requirement, fees apply.
- Dubai banks do not require foreign companies to possess a local entity to set up an account. However, it is increasingly difficult and expensive to open offshore company bank accounts, as banks have tightened their requirements.
- For both onshore and offshore companies, Dubai banks require each signatory and director to have a one hour face-to-face interview with a bank officer as part of bank AML/CFT obligations. Unfortunately, even if our Client travels to Dubai to meet the bank, there is no guarantee that the account will be opened.
- On average, Dubai banks take on average eight weeks to issue corporate bank account numbers after a face-to-face meeting with the bank signatory.
- Even the smallest transactions can be completed in Dubai by local and international debit and credit cards, as well as methods such as Apple Pay and an array of other payment gateways. Nearly all ATMs in Dubai accept international cards, many offer withdrawals in US dollars, and some have high daily withdrawal amounts of at least Dhs5,000.
- Most Dubai bank branch staff speak English, and correspondence and online banking etc is available in both English and Arabic.
- If you open a foreign currency account along with a UAE dirham account, transfers can easily be made between the two. In 2020, Dubai banks pay up to 1.6% interest on UAE dirham fixed deposits.
- The UAE is a signatory to the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), a global initiative to clamp down on tax evasion. Dubai banks share information on accounts and account holders with tax authorities where the company/individual is tax-resident.
- Under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), since 2015 UAE banks report information on US account holders to the US Inland Revenue Service (IRS).
- The UAE is also a signatory to the Basel Committee, which regulates global banking practices.
- There are no foreign exchange controls in Dubai. There is a free flow of funds for remittances of profits, dividends, debt service, capital, capital gains, branch profits, royalties, and returns on intellectual property or imports. Foreign individuals and companies are also free to open personal or corporate multicurrency bank accounts in Dubai.
- That said, all travellers entering the country must fill a declaration when bringing cash amounts equivalent to or higher than US$27,226.
- It is important that our Clients are aware of their corporate and legal obligations in Dubai and that they timely fulfil the same. Let us know if you require Healy Consultants Group PLC’s assistance to timely and efficiently complete your legal and corporate responsibilities.
Healy Consultants Group PLC fees to help open a corporate bank account in Dubai
Healy Consultants Group PLC guarantees Dubai company bank account approval.
Dubai banking task Our Client travels US$ Dubai bank account for a foreign company Yes 5,950 Dubai bank account for a UAE offshore company Yes 4,950 Dubai bank account for a Dubai company Yes 4,950 Dubai private personal bank account Yes 2,950 Dubai brokerage account Yes 4,950
The fees above do not include i) expenses to cover our Client’s trip to Dubai ii) notarisation and attestation fees or iii) bank charges and opening fees (if any).
Our Dubai multi-currency corporate bank account opening fees cover the following support services:
- Creating a quality business plan for Dubai banks, explaining the purpose of the business and future banking transactions.
- Simultaneously submitting bank applications to multiple Dubai banks;
- Securing a welcome email from at least one Dubai bank, inviting our Client to submit a multi-currency corporate bank account application.
- Healy Consultants Group PLC’s Banking Team completing, on our Client’s behalf, the multi-currency corporate bank account application forms and collating Know Your Customer (KYC) due diligence documents.
- Healy Consultants Group PLC’s staff meeting our Client in Dubai and accompanying our Client to face-to-face meetings with multiple local banks to open multi-currency corporate bank accounts.
- Following successful completion of the above, the bank officer submitting a complete potential customer file to the bank Legal and Compliance Department. Note that the bank In-house Legal and Compliance Department may revert multiple times for additional documentation and information from i) each bank signatory / director / UBOs of the companies as well as ii) our Client’s business and transactions).
- If a bank declines to board our Client’s business, Healy Consultants Group PLC immediately informing our Client and actioning back-up banking solutions.
- In an average of two months following application submission, Healy Consultants Group PLC securing multiple multi-currency corporate bank account numbers for our Client’s Dubai company.
- Thereafter, Healy Consultants Group PLC, or the banks, couriering mails and e-banking tokens to the bank signatory, who is expected to activate the internet bank account, with Healy Consultants Group PLC’s assistance if needed.
- After corporate bank account numbers are secured and, if required, Healy Consultants Group PLC assisting our Client to appoint more new shareholders and directors. However, the banks will usually only approve them as bank signatory after a face-to-face meeting and the review and approval of a bank signatory application.
Considerations when opening a bank account in Dubai
- Dubai banks have tightened their account opening procedures, especially for foreign companies.
- The UAE government requests local banks to implement strict ‘Know Your Client’ procedures. Therefore prior to bank account opening, our Client will be required to submit i) detailed information on the company’s activities (including proof of business in Dubai such as examples of contracts, invoices etc) ii) information on the company’s Clients and suppliers iii) background information on shareholders and directors and iv) financial projections. Our corporate banking team will assist in preparing the necessary company documents to the bank’s satisfaction.
- Every UAE bank will request our Client to submit legalised and attested company documents before the corporate account can be opened. Therefore, to save our Client’s time, Healy Consultants Group PLC will preliminary confirm with our preferred bank the documentation our Client needs to attest. A local company should budget approximately US$2,000 for attestation fees. For a foreign entity, budget US$5,600 for attestation fees (seven documents @ US$800 each). If the company (local or foreign) has a complex structure, then the Client should budget for over US$7,000 in attestation fees.
- In addition to the information required by the bank, Healy Consultants Group PLC requires additional Client due diligence documents to better assist our Clients with their Dubai banking requests.
- The bank must receive the complete set of documents requested by the bank within three weeks of the Client’s trip to Dubai. Failing to timely supply the same means the bank will cancel the application and we will need to re-apply for bank account opening. Our Client will need to travel again to Dubai for a one-hour interview.
- It will take two weeks for our corporate banking team to prepare the complete Dubai account opening application/proposal for submission.
- Some Dubai banks prefer to communicate directly with our Client and will not put Healy Consultants Group PLC in the loop for security purposes. In this case, our team will assist our Client to prepare quality answers to the bankers’ questions and requests.
Dubai brokerage account
- A Dubai brokerage account is popular among Clients seeking a trading platform in the Middle East. Although Middle East stock exchanges are less developed than those in Europe, the US or Asia, there has been an increase in turnover volumes and demand for Dubai brokerage accounts.
- Setting up a brokerage account in Dubai also enables Clients to trade on European and American stock exchanges.
- Some of the most dynamic emerging markets are in the Gulf. Fund managers are seeking investment opportunities in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, and Qatar. Setting up a brokerage account in Dubai is, therefore, an excellent strategy for our Clients to tap into these markets.
- Services offered when setting up a Dubai brokerage account include equities trading in the Middle East, an optimal cash account, a margin trading account, FX and futures margin trading, securities borrowing and lending, funds and unit trusts, fixed income investments, research products including daily and weekly updates, company research reports, and sector focus reports.
- A Dubai brokerage account will be subject to charges including i) brokerage commissions ii) data fees iii) stock transfer charges iv) value-added services such as charges for real-time price quotes and research tools, interest rates for margin loans, and management fees for discretionary accounts.
- Dubai banks are willing to provide finance to local companies if the following conditions are met: i) submission of a good business plan ii) availability of security iii) experience of the business owners iv) auditing of the financial statements of the last three years v) availability of a realistic feasibility study and vi) report of the project’s strength and weaknesses analysis (SWOT).
- Trade finance includes i) bank guarantees ii) letters of credit iii) finance against trust receipt as well as iv) document against payment and against acceptance.
- Corporate finance in the form of a loan, overdraft or simply preferential credit terms.
- Some multinational Clients seek trade finance to i) boost working capital ii) better manage cash flow iii) benefit from economies of scale by buying in volume and iv) reduce bankruptcy risks.
Frequently asked questions
Which banks should I consider for accessing Dubai business banking solutions?Although several Dubai business bank account options will be available for our Clients, Healy Consultants recommends internationally renowned banks including HSBC, Standard Chartered, Citibank and Barclays.
Is Dubai online corporate banking safe for cross border transactions?Yes. Healy Consultants works with highly reputable banks so as to ensure safe corporate banking for our Clients in Dubai.
How to open an offshore bank account in Dubai?For opening an offshore bank account in Dubai, our Clients will not be required to incorporate a local company. However, the KYC procedures will be more stringent than when opening a bank account for a resident company. Please refer to our section above to read our bank account opening guide for Dubai companies.
Dubai multi-currency corporate bank account opening is easy if you know how. Contact Healy Consultants Group PLC if your Firm needs assistance navigating through the different banking solutions.