OCBC (Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation) is a Singapore-registered bank that has repeatedly featured at the top of global banking stability rankings. It is easier to work with than DBS or UOB and has a far superior in-house brokerage unit. In this article, I review OCBC and explain how to open an account as a non-resident.
Review and how to open an account
OCBC is the oldest Singapore bank still in operation and the second largest by assets. Its largest shareholders include Citibank, HSBC and the Singapore government. iOCBC, its in-house brokerage unit, is miles better than that of DBS or UOB although it lags behind the likes of IB. OCBC is the friendliest of the local banks when it comes to opening accounts for non-residents although it is worth noting that it still is fairly hard to open an account.
Speaking of which, while it is possible to open an account remotely, a physical visit to the bank will be required in nearly every cases. You will need a proof of identity, a proof of address (dated within the last 90 days) and a mobile phone number. Singapore residents should also bring along their NRIC or FIN. To improve your chances, you should bring a letter of recommendation from a bank with whom you have had an account for at least two years (addressed to OCBC). Your documents must be in English, if they are not they must be translated in Singapore by a bank-approved translator. There is no need to pre-arrange for an appointment with the bank, simply show up at a branch with your documents. The minimum deposit for a personal account is 1000 SGD. With that said, as a non-resident, you will need to deposit a significant sum to convince the bank to open the account for you (or open a brokerage account). You will also need to provide a proof of origin for the funds deposited. There is no monthly fee if the minimum balance of 3000 SGD is maintained, if not, the fee starts at 2 SGD. For business bank accounts, the minimum is 30000 SGD for SGD accounts and 30000 USD for USD accounts. Personal accounts are usually opened on the spot while it may take up to a month for a business bank account (and will likely involve an account opening fee).
Improve your chances with a brokerage account
Even though OCBC is friendlier to non-residents than the other local banks, it can still be challenging to open an account. To improve your chances, open a brokerage account first (with iOCBC) and ask the brokerage unit to sponsor your bank account opening.