Foreign groups

Opening a UK bank account

Diviya Ramaiya, Director, Business Solutions

Without prior expertise or knowledge of how to open a bank account in the UK, the process can be difficult, frustrating, and time consuming; depending on the UK company's ownership structure.

Many aspects can make opening a UK business bank account quite confusing. This can include the size of the business, banking regulations and anti-money laundering checks. However, if companies are prepared, the process can be simpler.

Be prepared

The bank will require the IDs of all ultimate beneficiaries. When applying from another country, companies will be required to submit notarised translations of identification and proof-of-address documents. These documents will need to be translated if they are not in English.

Traditional high street banks can take 4 to 6 months to have the account prepared, regardless of whether you are ready to run the business and have deals waiting to be finalised.

Companies should check with their UK advisers as they are likely to have strong banking contacts who they can refer to you.

Here's how to navigate through this tricky area:

1. Ensure the business is registered in the UK.

To open a UK bank account, companies will need either:

  • to be registered as a UK limited liability company
  • to be registered as a branch of a foreign established business.

Either option is a straight forward process and can be done relatively quickly.

2.  If the group is new, it does not have a credit history and the UK business is initially expected to have a modest turnover then the bank will need to see a business plan and understand where the funding for the UK business is coming from.

Options are:

  • to consider whether existing non-UK banking connections have a branch in the UK and can make an internal referral.
  • to contact challenger banks such as those listed here.

3.  If the group is successful, and has a credit history, but the UK business is yet to be established and unlikely to have a turnover of more than £2 million per annum in the first few years (however is expected to grow quickly).

Options are to:

  • apply online with traditional banks or through advisers (having a UK Director/officer on the mandate will make the process much easier)
  • start with challenger banks and when the business is big enough with credit history you can transfer your account to a traditional bank.

Navigating this process can be tricky but it is doable and can be made easier with the right advice. For more support in this area, contact us below.

Contact us

Diviya Ramaiya
Director, Business Solutions