We researched local banks in Singapore and ranked each according to ease of opening the account in the name of a foreign director, ease of internet banking, and which ones offered the lowest account keeping fees.

We spoke to 20 Futurebooks’ clients and asked them what they thought of their corporate banking in Singapore, and whether or not it could be improved.

The most common responses were:

  1. Poor online user experience. This included everything from making a transfer of funds, to downloading a statement.
  2. Antiquated systems. Although the service is ‘online’, many tasks had to be done using paper forms at a branch. An example is a change of address.

“Will do an inter-departmental hierarchical multi-self-approval money transaction via the Standard Chartered intricate inter-web platform today.

Failing that will revert to antiquated paper written financial transaction transfer request booklet by national non-virtual delivery footman service.”

Here’s another more recent one. We get these types of emails daily from our customers.

“OMFG. What a mess #@$% online banking is.

It took me about half an hour but I have created and submitted a payment for $1500. I assume this should hit your account tomorrow? I would try to send you a remittance advice but that might take me another hour.

For sanity sake can you let me know that you receive the payment.”

The shortlist

We called each of the banks and asked them to describe their corporate banking facility. The survey was carried out in August 2012. We tried to contact their marketing folks to verify if this information was correct, but received no replies.

[table caption=””]
[attr style=”width:20px”],Account name,Min. opening balance,Min. avg. daily balance,Directors living abroad,Address,Telephone
DBS,Startup Entrepreneur Account,$500,$10000,Easy,6 Shenton Way,(65) 62222200
OCBC,Business Entrepreneur,$500,$8000,Easy,65 Chulia Street #01-01 OCBC Centre,(65) 65381111
Standard Chartered,BusinessOne,none,$10000,Easy,16 Collyer Quay,(65) 67433000
UOB,Current,$1000,$8000,Hard,80 Raffles Place,(65) 62266121

MayBank,Company Current,$3000,$10000,Hard,2 Battery Road,(65) 65335229

HSBC,Business Vantage,$30000,$30000,Hard,21 Collyer Quay,(65) 62169008

Citibank,Commercial Bank,$100000,$50000,Hard,23 Church Street,(65) 62388833
Minimum opening balances. This is the amount the bank requires to be deposited when the account is opened. This deposited is normally due with 5 days of the account opening.

Minimum daily balances. This is the minimum balance that is required in the account each day. If the account falls below this amount, normally the bank charges a fee.

Directors living abroad. Most banks require the director(s) to be physically present to open an account in Singapore, which makes account opening and closing difficult.

Establishment or recurring annual fees. Almost all the banks reported no establishment or recurring annual fees.

Some banks are part owned by other banks, and were not featured in our survey. For example Far Eastern Bank Limited is UOB Group. POSB is DBS. Bank of Singapore is part of OCBC.

The winners

The most startup friendly banks were DBS and OCBC.

Both banks offered a combination of low rates and permitted directors residing abroad to open an account remotely without too much trouble. We were particularly impressed with OCBC, because we found their staff friendly and efficient when opening accounts for clients.

Unfortunately the banks were not able to offer video fly-throughs or demo accounts of their internet corporate banking. So we had no means of comparing the experience of using one internet banking facility over another.

We did find this cool mobile banking video from OCBC.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4BBsOcOGJA]

Internet banking still unfriendly

UOB’s may be SMEs number one bank, but we won’t be giving them or any other bank awards for the best internet banking site.

Although we were not able to check out the banking sites for ourselves, the message from our customers was unanimous – all of the banks could improve the experience for online users.

Futurebooks bank with UOB. We love the bank. The staff are friendly on the phone and in-store. Just don’t use their internet banking site.

On two occasions I have written to the bank and offered our time for free to help them improve their website. They never replied.

Users expect no manuals to learn how to use a website or an application. A website that asks a user to ‘watch this video’ to learn to navigate the site has failed. Twitter and Facebook don’t ask users to watch videos on how to make the most of new functions, and neither should internet banking sites.

From the banks perspective, justifying improvements can be difficult if the traffic to their web properties is low.

Banking 2.0, please

Brazil’s Banco Bradesco has opened a high-tech bank in São Paulo. How is it different from other banks? Biometric ATMs, robotic greeters, and Star Trek-style touchscreens everywhere for starters.

Okay, may be not appropriate for corporate banking. However if Banking 2.0 were to arrive, could we please include:

  1. statements we can download for a period of up to 12 months;
  2. statements we can download in multiple formats;
  3. fast cash transfer in 3 clicks;
  4. bank feeds into our cloud accounting apps;
  5. analytics on spend patterns.

As of the date this post was published, Xero have announced bank feeds are coming from DBS. What would you like added to Banking 2.0? Tell us your experiences and ideas on better banking in Singapore.

About Futurebooks

Futurebooks is Singapore’s and Hong Kong’s most progressive bookkeeping company. Futurebooks offer affordable incorporation, bookkeeping, business planning and brokering, to entrepreneurs with big ambitions.

Whether your goal is to be acquired or to be more profitable this quarter, Futurebooks provide planning to keep your business on track and bookkeeping services that streamline the journey.

Using cloud computing solutions like Intuit’s QuickBooks Online, Xero, SaaSu, DropBox, Workflowmax, Vend, salesforce.com and Google Enterprise, Futurebooks are able to offer clients productivity improvements and reductions in the cost of accounting.

Visit Futurebooks or follow them on Twitter here.

About the author

Anthony Coundouris is the founder of an accounting and analytics firm Futurebooks Pte Ltd. Anthony is obsessed with helping start-up companies incorporate, conduct industry analysis and develop positioning. He has ten years experience in media and marketing, and was founder of Firestarter, a digital marketing agency.

Firestarter was acquired by Novus Media in 2010.

This post was originally published on Futurebooks’ blog as “Comparison of corporate banking in Singapore“.