Banking & Taxation
With its strategic location and well-developed infrastructure, Singapore is a center for trade and financial services for the Asian region. Financial services are a key source of growth since the 1970s and the government constantly provides incentives for its development.
Commercial banks in Singapore are licensed under and governed by the Banking Act and may undertake universal banking. The license for commercial banking, permits deposit taking, the provision of cheque services and lending and any other business which is regulated or authorised by Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), such as financial advisory services, insurance broking and capital market services.
There are several benefits for non-residents (foreigners) and expatriates to open a banking account in Singapore. Please see the page ”Global Bank account“ to find out about the considerations about opening a bank account in Singapore.
Commercial banks can be classified into 3 categories, which are Full banks, Wholesale banks or Offshore banks. Further explanation as follows:
Currently the are 28 full banks are operating in Singapore. Full banks may provide the whole range of banking business permitted under the Banking Act.
Foreign full banks with Qualifying Full Bank (“QFB”) privileges will be able to:
- Operate a total of 25 locations
- Share ATMs among other foreign banks and relocate their sub-branches freely
- Negotiate with the local banks to let their credit card holders obtain cash advances through the local bank’s ATM networks.
- Provide debit services through an EFTPOS network
- Offer Supplementary Retirement Scheme and CPF Investment Scheme accounts, and
- Accept fixed deposits under the CPF Investment Scheme and Minimum Sum Scheme
Examples of foreign banks with full bank status in Singapore are like HSBC, Standard Chartered, Citibank, Bank of America, Bank of China, Bank of India, ANZ, RHB bank, etc.
The following local banks offer a full banking service including current and deposit accounts, ATM’s, credit and debit cards, loans, mortgages etc. These banks have the most extensive branch network. DBS owns POSB and therefore customers may use either bank’s ATM’s. OCBC and UOB operate a shared ATM system and therefore clients of both banks may use either bank’s ATM machines.
Offshore banks can engage in the same activities as full and wholesale banks for businesses transacted through their Asian Currency Units (ACUs). The ACU is an accounting unit, which the banks use to book all their foreign currency transactions conducted in the Asian Dollar Market. The banks’ Singapore dollar transactions are separately booked in the Domestic Banking Unit. Offshore banks operate within the Guidelines for Offshore Banks issued by MAS. Examples of Offshore Banks in Singapore are Arab bank, Bank of Taiwan, Hang Seng Bank, Credit Agricole (Suisse), Royal Bank of Canada, etc.
Wholesale banks may engage in the same range of banking business as full banks, except that they do not carry out Singapore Dollar retail banking activities. They operate within the Guidelines for Operations of Wholesale Banks issued by MAS. Examples of Wholesale Banks are Barclays Bank, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, ING Banks, etc.