Using HSBC HK overseas

Michael MicheliniBanking, Blog, Corporate3 Comments

All set with your Hong Kong company and HSBC bank account? Congratulations! It can be quite a feat, especially in today’s rather strict KYC – “Know your Customer” world.

So, after you have the bank account, you may want to make some changes. This is where it gets a bit complicated, especially if you are living and working outside of Hong Kong.

Banks Are Still Not Embracing The Internet

Unfortunately, as I write this post, let’s just say there are a lot left to be desired for online banking from HSBC Hong Kong and other banks (if you’re reading this guys, please…keep my account in good standing!).

Why? Maybe because they don’t have to. There hasn’t been a new bank coming to existence for decades, and with regulations so strict, new entrants and entrepreneurs (like me) find it next to impossible to build a startup to compete with these guys.

So, the Hong Kong banks just keep on going on in their traditional ways.

And the traditional way is to come to their customer service centre. They are used to meeting you face to face, giving you a cup of coffee, having you take a seat in the lobby and waiting for your account executive to handle your case.

Emailing a banking executive is rare, well maybe not rare for you to fire off an email to them, but rare to get a reply! I think they are just so overwhelmed with questions and emails they don’t know how to keep up. And on the other side of it, they cannot discuss client’s personal information over the internet, as email is not the most secure and private way to communicate.

So, what is a Hong Kong business owner living and operating overseas supposed to do? Well, today I hope I can help ya!

Mail in The Forms

HSBC has tons of forms. A lot of them can be found on their website, but often times they are missing or even private.

So, you can ask your company secretary to help you out in going down to the bank and fetching these forms. Then scan them and send them over to you by email. You can then print them out, sign, and send them back to HSBC Hong Kong.

Tip: Some clients I work with complain that HSBC doesn’t get their mail. So I have started to allow clients to mail to me first, confirm to the client I have received this form, and then we turn it in at the HSBC branch directly.

Don’t Have The Form – Write Custom Instructions

So, maybe you don’t have the form, and your agency can’t help you, etc etc. Well, you can also write a letter, with your company letterhead, instructing the bank to do as you request.

What do you put in the letter? Well, you should cover your company information, of course. And make it look professional.

Then you need to put your company name, your HSBC bank account number, and what exactly you are trying to do with the account.

For example, if you are trying to close this account, you need to tell them that it is OK for them to take any outstanding bank fees from the account to close it. And then they need to know where you’d like to send the remaining balance.

You can also call their customer service and they can list out the details they need you to put in your instruction letter.

They Need The Real, Original Signature

So, here’s the annoying part. The bank requires the form to be physically mailed in with the original account holder’s signature on it. Yes, you can’t just sign and scan it and email in.

While you can save on the mailing of the form from Hong Kong to your overseas address, you cannot get around sending the physical form (or business letter with instructions) to HSBC in Hong Kong.

Signature Must Be Exactly Like You Signed When Opening

So, here is a fun part. In Asia, they take signatures to be very important. It must match 100% to the way you signed it when opening up the HSBC account. When you open your account, the banker should explain this to you. And you should remember, maybe even take a photo, of the signature you used on the signature form.

I totally understand us “foreigners” are much looser on our signatures. We sign large squiggly lines and sometimes the M is to the left a bit and the R is smaller than last time. Some clients I’ve worked with are so young that they have never had to sign their name before (crazy right?). The world is changing, as online is more and more normal for even banking, and doing digital signatures.

But here in Hong Kong banks, signature is the main way to instruct and confirm what you want the banker to do to your account. And it must be the exact same.

So, I have had times where people have had to mail in the document a few times from overseas because they signature is rejected. And it really is signed by the proper account holder and director! Crazy right!

Tip: If you’re mailing in from overseas, and worry you sign your signature a bit different each time, try mailing in a few copies of the form with you signing each one a bit different. This you should mail to your company agency or secretary to help send in 1 by 1 from Hong Kong. Much faster than having to mail in one letter at a time.

Best Tip – Do Your Banking Changes When in Hong Kong

While a big goal of the Global From Asia blog and podcast is about running your international business from Hong Kong anywhere in the world – there are certain times when you should schedule a few day layover in Hong Kong.

Come on, visiting Hong Kong isn’t a bad gig, this place rocks!

While once you have applied and been approved for your account life is good and business will operate as usual – here are some times when it may be difficult to do things outside of Hong Kong

  • Adding a Signer to the account
  • Removing a Signer From the account
  • Applying for a Credit Card
  • Changing Insurance policies
  • Closing Your Account

There are more items as well, I’ll try to keep this list updated. But these are more sensitive bank issues and it is best done in person. While it is possible to do while outside of Hong Kong, it is best to do at a HSBC branch.

Ultimate Tip – Try to Get a Local HSBC Near You To Accept Your Signature

Ok, you guys need to buy me a beer for this next tip. Or maybe subscribe to our newsletter for more tips. It is a bit of a hack. But find out if there is an HSBC near you in the country you’re currently in. Bring this HSBC HK form there, filled out. Don’t sign it before. When you talk to a SME business center banker, tell them that you want them to notarize that they verified your signature and then mail it in to HSBC HK.

This, you need to be a bit of a nice client. Don’t go in there demanding. They should be able to do it, some have said it has worked, others have said it doesn’t work. But after the signature is notarized by that HSBC, you can then mail it into Hong Kong’s HSBC center. Or to your agency in HK.

That should let you sleep well at night knowing the document will work and you won’t have to wait weeks to find out they didn’t accept your signature! If this works or doesn’t work for you – please leave a comment in his guide post so we can all learn if it is working in different HSBCs around the world.

So What’s Your Experience Updating HSBC HK From Around The World?

Enjoying this guide on upkeep for your Hong Kong business bank account?

Well, now it is your turn! Let’s crowdsource our experiences together and leave the comments below. I am following this topic closely and want to help clients we are working with have the most smooth experience in their banking upkeep and maintenance.

Many of us don’t have time to fly to Hong Kong. So hopefully we will verify that you can go to other HSBC in different countries and they are open to verifying the signatures.

I know some people really have a big problem with HSBC banks, and they never want to deal with them again. I am for the most part OK, but yes, I need to go downstairs to the branch and wait in line to talk to a banker. The phone support and email support leaves a lot to be desired. I have heard they have some customer service consultants coming on board to improve the experience.

Let’s work together to keep tabs on how things go, and as always, I wish you the best on your international business expansion from your laptop on the beach!

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Tags: asia, banking, china, corporate, e-commerce, ecommerce, entrepreneur, guide, hong kong, legal, tips

3 Comments on “Using HSBC HK overseas”

  1. Pingback: Newsletter: Converting Farmland to Residential Zones in HK?

  2. Dr. Stefan Meyer

    I just spent 35 minutes !!! on the HSBC local Hong Kong customer hotline to find out the physical address of HSBC in Hong Kong to send some documents.
    To no avail.
    Useless hotline!
    They could not tell me where to send the documents to (NOT a PO box, as couriers can not deliver to PO boxes, obviously)

    Salvation was the standard hotline (based on the Philippines). A friendly lady could offer me the information in 45 seconds!
    The HK team should get coached by the Philippine hotline workers.

    Extremely disappointing, ineffective, stupid!


    1. Michael Michelini

      Yes, so annoying – their main HK headquarters is

      Beneficiary Bank Name: HSBC Hong Kong
      Beneficiary Bank Code: 004

      Some banks require the physical address of the beneficiary bank, if needed it is:
      Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited – HSBC
      Hong Kong Office
      Level 6, HSBC Main Building, 1 Queen’s Road Central, Central
      Hong Kong SAR
      (no zip code in Hong Kong)

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