Pakistan corporate bank accounts in 2021
Since 2003, Healy Consultants Group PLC helps multi-national Clients open multi-currency corporate bank accounts in Pakistan for both local and overseas companies.
Without bank signatory travel, our Dubai-based 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!
Pakistan banking problems and solutions
No Pakistan banking problem Solution 1.
Bank refuses to onboard a foreign company which does not have a physical office in Pakistan, or Pakistani customers or suppliers.
Bank insists that the bank signatory travels to Pakistan for a one-hour bank interview.
Healy Consultants Group PLC will register a local Pakistan entity to secure Pakistan corporate bank account numbers;
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 Pakistan affiliates’ 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 Pakistan bank account approval to take up to two months.
Like the majority of international banks, it is common for Pakistani 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’ businesses under stress.
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.
If our Client requires a bank account at short notice, we recommend an immediate Pakistan solution plus already-approved international corporate bank account).
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.
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 majority of Pakistani banks only provide telephone support during Pakistan business hours. This is inconvenient for multi-national Clients in the USA, for example.
Healy Consultants Group PLC staff assist our multi-national Clients with bank communication, regardless of time zones.
The Pakistan banking sector
Healy Consultants Group PLC summary view:
- Pakistan’s banking and financial system has a poor reputation internationally, with regular allegations of corruption, money laundering, embezzlement and political interference. In 2020, several Pakistani banks were investigated over money laundering suspicions. In addition, the country’s informal cash transfer system, called hawala, is often cited as a conduit for money laundering and terror financing.
- In 2017 Pakistan’s largest bank, Habib Bank, closed its only branch in the US following US moves to impose a US$630 million fine on the bank for its alleged failure to comply with anti-money laundering measures. Banks and mobile money service providers are at risk of being used as vehicles for money laundering and terror financing. As global scrutiny around money laundering increases, we expect Pakistani banks to face more sanctions.
- In 2020 the Pakistan economy suffered its first annual contraction in more than 70 years. The economy is on the brink of bankruptcy. As the economy shrinks, more businesses will go bankrupt, more people will become unemployed, bank deposits will fall and there is a risk banks will fail. The government’s ability to prop up local banks will be severely compromised in a recession, and this problem is exacerbated by the volatile political situation in the country.
- Between July and December 2020, Pakistan received US$14 billion in remittances from overseas workers, up 25% year-on-year. This bolstered the country’s foreign currency reserves, which reached US$6.5 billion, the highest level in years, because remittances were paid in Gulf currencies pegged to the US dollar. Remittances from overseas account for about 8% of the country’s GDP, and to encourage more remittances the Pakistan government cut withholding tax on bank transfers in July 2020. However, there is a large risk that remittances will fall in 2021 if Pakistani migrant workers lose their jobs in countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE as global macro-economic conditions deteriorate.
- Pakistan’s banks were surprisingly profitable in 2020, despite a dramatic fall in interest rates and the severe operating environment. National Bank of Pakistan profits rose 60% year on year, while Habib Bank profits surged 187%. However, in 2021 we expect i) more customers to default on debt repayments ii) more households conserving cash rather than taking out loans iii) bank redundancies and branch closures, causing service quality to fall and iv) low interest rates to further hurt bank earnings and margins.
- In December 2020, the incidence of non-performing loans in Pakistan was more than 10%, blamed on a lack of governance and irregularities within banks which had put depositors’ money at risk. The expiry of a loan moratorium in December 2020 will see more loan defaults in 2021. High incidences of non-performing loans not only puts bank depositors’ money at risk, but also heightens distrust among international banks when dealing with local banks.
- The value of the Pakistan Stock Exchange hit a three-year high in January 2021, and reported a 16-year high trade volume in the same month.
- Pakistan’s sovereign credit rating is B- (Fitch), Moody’s is B3, and S&P’s rating is B-. Pakistan is vulnerable to a sovereign risk downgrade due to weak public finances.
- Because of the above, a Pakistan bank account is not seen positively by international Clients, and the financial system inspires little confidence among investors or entrepreneurs. Your overseas Clients may feel uncomfortable remitting funds to, or receiving funds from, a Pakistani bank. We recommend multinational Clients minimise funds held with Pakistani banks and spread the risk across multiple jurisdictions.
Key information on the Pakistan banking sector
- The State Bank of Pakistan licences, regulates and supervises 35 banks, including commercial banks, foreign banks, Islamic banks, development finance institutions (DFIs), and micro-finance banks. As the regulator, the central bank intervenes from time to time to defend the rupee currency from devaluation. The Pakistan rupee depreciated strongly against the US dollar in 2020.
- Although Pakistan is still a cash-based society, including the informal hawala system, Covid-19 is likely to accelerate the growth of digital banking platforms in the country. Currently, a massive 100 million adult Pakistanis do not have access to a bank account.
- We recommend our Clients bank with the following international banks in Pakistan: i) HSBC ii) Standard Chartered Bank and iii) Citibank. The top local banks in terms of assets and reputation include i) Habib Bank Limited ii) National Bank Limited iii) United Bank Limited iv) MCB Bank Limited v) Allied Bank Limited and vi) Bank Afalah Limited. As well as Pakistan rupee accounts, some local banks offer multi-currency corporate bank accounts in US$, sterling and Euros.
- Pakistan 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.
- Corporate banking in Pakistan includes a full range of conventional products and services including i) investment products (insurance and unit trusts) ii) financing products and services (trade and share financing) iii) trade and credit facilities (including revolving credit facilities) iv) remittances v) bank guarantee facilities and vi) vendor financing.
- Most Pakistan banks do not charge an account opening fee. However, the account must be funded immediately after opening and our Client should ensure the account remains active to avoid closure. The minimum balance required varies between US$2,000 and US$50,000 and should be monthly maintained. A monthly service fee of between US$10 and US$20 will be charged for balances below the required minimum.
- On average, Pakistan banks take two months to issue corporate bank account numbers and e-banking access.
- Some bank branch staff in Pakistan speak English, and correspondence and online banking etc in all banks is available in English from the leading banks.
- Customer service standards in Pakistan banks are poor. Visiting bank branches is inconvenient, and the bureaucracy and paperwork required to make even simple transactions is cumbersome and frustrating.
- Debit and credit card payments are not common in Pakistan. There are ATMs across the country but many do not accept foreign cards and daily withdrawal limits are only up to 50,000 rupees (US$312), often less.
- A rise in digital apps like Xoom and Roshan Digital will boom. Apps are convenient and cheaper ways to make payments than going to a bank or delivering money by hand, and it is not necessary to visit a branch to open an account. The growth of these solutions will help the financial system become more stable overall.
- Local retail banks offer better currency exchange rates than money changers. If you open a foreign currency account along with a Pakistan rupee account, transfers can easily be made between the two.
- Bank deposits in Pakistan are protected up to 250,000 rupees (US$1,573) per depositor, per bank. This is a welcome, albeit limited, safety net for depositors in the event that a bank fails.
- Pakistan is a signatory to the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), a global initiative to clamp down on tax evasion. As a result, Pakistan-based banks share information on accounts and account holders with tax authorities where the company/individual is tax-resident.
- Similarly, under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), Pakistan banks report information on US account holders to the US Inland Revenue Service (IRS).
Foreign exchange obligations in Pakistan
Foreign exchange is subject to controls in Pakistan. Banks in the country are required to keep detailed records of any remittances from companies exceeding US$25,000 in value. Remittances can only be made against a valid contract or agreement which must be registered with the State Bank of Pakistan within 30 days.
Healy Consultants Group PLC fees to help open a corporate bank account in Pakistan
Healy Consultants Group PLC guarantees Pakistan company bank account approval. Our fees for different banking services include:
Pakistan banking task Our Client travels US$ Pakistan bank account for a foreign company No 4,950 Pakistan bank account for a Pakistani company No 4,950 Pakistan personal bank account No 4,950
Our multi-currency corporate bank account opening fees cover the following:
- At the time of company incorporation, our team determining, with our Client, the optimal bank solution, comparing local and international corporate bank account options.
- Creating a quality business plan for the Pakistan banks, explaining the purpose of the business and future banking transactions.
- Securing welcome emails from multiple Pakistan banks, 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.
- 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 three months following application submission, Healy Consultants Group PLC securing multiple multi-currency corporate bank account numbers for our Client’s Pakistani 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 Pakistan
- It is possible for both locally incorporated and foreign (i e non-Pakistani) companies to open a corporate bank account in Pakistan. However, it has become increasingly difficult for foreign companies without a permanent establishment (i e physical office premises with lease agreement) in Pakistan to open a local account, unless they have existing Pakistani customers or suppliers.
- Depending on our Client’s business and nationality, there is an 80% probability Pakistan banks will request a bank signatory to travel for a one-hour bank interview as part of bank AML/CFT obligations. We will try our best to negotiate with the bank for a travel exemption. Unfortunately, even if our Client travels to Pakistan to meet the bank, there is no guarantee that the bank account will be opened.
- If our Client must travel to Pakistan for corporate bank account opening, Healy Consultants Group PLC will refund our Client US$950.
- 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 the bank account approval period to take up to three months.
- If our Client is not comfortable with only a Pakistan corporate bank account, Healy Consultants Group PLC can open an international corporate bank account outside Pakistan. Examples include New York, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, Bulgaria, South Africa, Australia, London, South America or Dubai. All banks will be top-tier banks in these countries, with excellent internet banking services.
- Some Pakistan 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, Healy Consultants Group PLC will assist our Client to prepare quality answers to the bankers’ questions and requests.
Documents required for Pakistan corporate bank account opening
Documents required to open a Pakistan corporate bank account include i) valid passport ii) proof of address and iii) company registration documents and iv) lease agreement and proof of business in Pakistan. For more information on corporate bank account opening procedures, visit this page.
Pakistan 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.
Latest information as of 2021