BANKING BASICS FOR E-RESIDENTS OF ESTONIA
We are frequently asked by our clients “How do I access banking as an e-Resident?” We will walk through this question and the other confusions about business banking basics.
E-Residency enables you to establish and manage a global EU company from anywhere in the world. It’s really important, then, that you can also access the tools you need to grow that company, such as financial services. So, the first and most basic thing that any company is going to need is banking, it is really important that even if you’re running a one-person company, you need to keep your company finances separate from your personal finances. So, you need an account where you can manage the company’s money. Now, when you start a company through e-Residency, your company’s going to be registered in Estonia, so you might think that you also need a bank account in Estonia. But actually, you have a range of options for business banking from banks and payments institutions across Europe. There’s no one right solution for everyone. So, what’s more important is that you can understand all of your choices, all of your options, so that you can pick the best provider and best service that fits your company’s needs. What we’re seeing at the moment is that more options are becoming available, particularly as more payment institutions across Europe seek to serve e-residents and their banking needs. There are actually only a small number of people who have difficulty obtaining any kind of international banking. And unfortunately, those are residents of countries that are categorized as high risk and non-cooperative by the Financial Action Task Force or FATF. It’s important to note though that affects residents and not people who are a citizen of those countries.
For everyone else, we are now going to take you through your business banking options as an e-resident. So, let’s start with the banks that are based in Estonia.
So, a number of e-residents have successfully obtained business bank accounts from banks based in Estonia. But you do have to bear in mind that these companies have a strict requirement about the kind of companies that they can serve. In addition, banks in Estonia currently require you to open an account in person. At one of their branches. Every application is assessed on a case-by-case basis, but we do know that banks generally favor companies that can demonstrate a connection to Estonia and can demonstrate that they have clear business goals. Another tip- the banks really appreciate visibility of their clients. So, if your company is very active online, very active on social media, engaging with customers and other stakeholders, then that’s the kind of thing that banks appreciate because it supports their due diligence. So, this is one are where digital nomads actually have the advantage because they’re more likely to be running their companies in very visible ways online. But no matter what kind of company you run, if you do try and open a bank account, the best advice is always to make sure you give the bank the clearest possible understanding of how your company works and what your plans are for that company.
Banks in Estonia are less likely to open accounts for non-residents of Estonia including e-residents, if their companies are large and involved in manufacturing, if they’re intermediaries that sell the services of others, if they are only doing business in their home country or outside of the EU, and crucially, if they can’t explain their clear business plans and their business goals. We also often get asked by e-residents: “What’s to stop me opening a bank account of a bank in my own country for my e-Residency company?” Well, actually, only really the banks themselves. Some banks are reluctant to open an account for a company that’s based in a different jurisdiction, but actually some e-residents have succeeded.
Alternative Banking Solutions (FinTech Companies)
Now we can talk about payment institutions which are also often called FinTech firms. So, these are not banks. They’re not credit institutions. And that means they can’t offer you all the same banking services. They can’t loan you money, for example, they are not covered by financial schemes, compensation schemes that the banks are covered by, but they also can’t lend out your money to other people. However, payment institutions are using financial technology to compete with banks and offer some of the same banking services, including business accounts which are incredibly useful for e-Residents and their companies. This is opening up far more choices for e-residents in their business banking. And one key advantage of these accounts is that you can apply for them entirely online from anywhere in the world. You do not have to travel to Estonia. You also do not have to demonstrate a connection to Estonia. Now, these companies do all have their own criteria about which companies they open accounts for. Although generally it does tend to be more about the types of companies and industries that they specialize in, rather than geographic boundaries. You can take a look at suggested banking options on our website. All of the options there are companies which either serve a significant number of e-residents with business banking or companies that have committed to serve e-residents. So, it could be that they’ve committed to integrate the e-Residency digital ID or that they’ve committed to comply with Estonia’s business regulations. You are also more than welcome to search around for other solutions which we may not have listed yet. More companies are always seeking to serve e-residents and that’s leading to more choice and lower prices on business banking for everyone.