Getting a corporate bank account for your UAE business

10 May 2017 Category :

When setting up a business, it can feel like your to-do list is never-ending. There are so many tasks to complete – some complex, some more straightforward.

Deep in that to-do list comes the task of setting up your corporate bank account. Fortunately this falls in the ‘more straightforward’ category. There are numerous reputable financial institutions operating in the UAE, from local banks such as Emirates NBD, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) – to international names like Standard Chartered, HSBC and Barclays. All offer the full range of services you would expect from an international financial institution in 2018.

Even though setting up a corporate bank account in the UAE is no more arduous than anywhere else in the world, it still requires the same careful consideration you would apply to any other business decision. And there are a number of boxes to tick to ensure you have everything in place before approaching your bank of choice.

With that in mind, let’s look at everything you need to know to get your account up and running – from the documents required to the account opening process itself. 

Setting up a corporate bank account in the UAE

To ensure the account opening process is as painless as possible, it’s vital that you have all of the required documents in place before you start the process itself. The steps below are relatively simple, but failing to do them in the correct order is likely to cause delays in opening your account. 

1. Get your business licence: This step is absolutely crucial. Without your business licence, the bank will not recognise you as a business and you won’t be able to open your corporate bank account. The licence application process consists of four simple steps:

  • Choose your business activity – decide on the business activity and type of business you wish to set up.
  • Finalise your company name – ensure your name aligns with the UAE’s naming conventions and is available to register.
  • Finalise all incorporation paperwork – complete your business licence application.
  • Receive your licence notification – once your business licence is granted you can press ahead with opening your corporate bank account.

Without your business licence, the bank will not recognise you as a business and you won’t be able to open your corporate bank account.

One of the best ways to get your business licence up and running is to work with a local company formation specialist, who can help you manage every stage of the application process.

2. Pull together your legal documents: Once your business licence is arranged, it’s time to ensure the rest of your legal and corporate documents are in line. The exact documents required will differ slightly from bank to bank. As a general rule, however, most financial institutions require the following:

  • A corporate account opening form.
  • A board of directors’ resolution sanctioning the opening of the account, and the signatories to the account.
  • A copy of your company’s certificate of incorporation.
  • A copy of your trade licence.
  • A copy of your share certificates.
  • A copy of the company’s memorandum and articles of association.
  • Copies of passports for all partners in the company.

Some banks may also require additional supporting documents: things like contracts or invoices, reference letters from business partners, company business plans, and information on the type of the activities on the account. Nowadays all banks have to prove to their regulators that they know their customers well, including the nature of their business and source of funds, so you can expect them to ask you about these things as part of the account setup process.

If your company is owned by another company, you may be required to provide the same documents for both. For example: If Company X is a shareholder in Company Y, then you may need to provide documents for both Company X and Company Y to open an account. If the owner company is registered outside the UAE, these documents will need to be attested by the UAE embassy from the country of origin, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in the UAE. Your local company formation specialist can give you detailed advice on these requirements.

3. Check visa-related requirements: The next step towards opening your corporate bank account is to establish whether your company shareholders are required to have residency visas. Some banks require proof of this from at least one shareholder, while others do not ask for it at all. So the issue of whether or not your shareholders have residency visas in place may have a bearing on which banks you consider applying to. It’s best to find out early which banks have these requirements so it doesn’t cause any delays to your application further down the line.

4. Choosing your bank: Once your documents are in place, you can now approach one of the UAE’s many banks. There are several things to consider at this stage. Eligibility factors like the one mentioned above should certainly be taken into account. And some banks may be better suited to you and your business than others. You may wish to bank with an Islamic institution like Emirates Islamic or RAKBANK, for example, rather than a Western bank. Or if you’re conducting investment or foreign trade, you might consider applying to banks such as Al Masraf, which are more suited to those types of business. Other popular examples in the UAE include SME specialists Mashreq, and the banking giants Emirates NDB and Noor Bank. The choice depends on you and the type of business you will be doing.

Your business cash flow could also be a factor as most banks in the UAE require a continuous minimum balance. This can range up to AED 1m, though most start much lower. For example, ADIB offer three tiers of accounts with minimum balances ranging between AED 5,000 and AED 200,000.

Your business cashflow could also be a factor as most banks in the UAE require a continuous minimum balance.

Once again, a company formation specialist can assist with this selection process, both in helping you decide which bank is right for you and putting you in contact with the relevant institutions.

5. Application process: Once you have the required paperwork in place, you can begin the formal account opening process. Some banks such as RAKBANK allow you to do this online, but it’s usually advisable to visit a branch and speak face-to-face with an advisor who can answer any questions you might have. You can either book this appointment yourself or ask your company formation specialist to do it for you, as they will already have close relationships with the banks.

At your appointment, which should take no more than 30 to 60 minutes, you’ll be required to present the documents listed above for checking. If all is in order, the bank representative will let you know that they can move forward with the setup process. In most cases, your account will be open in around five to 10 working days. 

If all is in order, the bank representative will let you know that they can move forward with the setup process. In most cases, your account will be open in around five to 10 working days.

Make it easy with a business setup partner

And there it is – the complete UAE business bank account set up process.

While it only consists of a few steps, ensuring you complete each one accurately will go a long way to getting your bank account open as quickly as possible – particularly when it comes to preparing the necessary documents.

Working with a business setup partner is the best way to ensure this process runs smoothly. You have already got plenty of things to worry about when establishing a new business: make sure that setting up your corporate bank account isn’t one of them.

About the author: Neil Petch, Chairman at Virtugroup

About the author: Neil Petch, Chairman at Virtugroup

With a history of business successes, Neil Petch is well known in the UAE and beyond as a visionary entrepreneur with a passion for helping others establish and grow their own businesses. Neil founded Virtuzone in 2009 and quickly established it as the region’s leading company formation expert, before launching Virtugroup, a holding company that has a wider mandate of supporting startups from establishment; to successful market entry; and all the way through to exit.