International Banking in Serbia: Top 7 Banks for Offshore Companies

Banks in Serbia can be a great opportunity if you need accounts with international banks for foreign companies planning offshore business. These days there are many challenges opening accounts in Europe for offshore entities. Here we highlight the advantages of the excellent Serbian solution. Our experts welcome you to book a free one-on-one consultation to discuss your specific questions and available help.

Banking challenges and opportunities for foreign companies offshoring business 

Why should anyone believe that it is next to impossible to open a bank account for an offshore company? Hundreds of thousands of entities generate their income in jurisdictions other than their countries of incorporation. And most of them use the services of local and international financial institutions. 

Banks in Serbia

We can agree, though, that all banks across the world had to introduce meticulous KYC procedures recently in compliance with the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regulations. So it takes more effort and time nowadays for an offshore company to open an account abroad.  

The standard Due Diligence includes the applicant’s background checks, verification of the legal origin of funds and availability of substance, onboarding risk assessment. However, if you understand the bank’s policy, thoroughly compile your application portfolio, know and observe the rules and procedures, your chances of opening a bank account are good. 

Our experts recommend that you should analyze the possible challenges in advance and plan every step accordingly. They are ready to assist offshore companies to negotiate with several banks and arrange with them the pre-approval of applications before submitting a formal application.

There are many articles on our portal explaining why and how our experts’ free consultation and fee-based help is a critically important and beneficial opportunity for owners choosing the right jurisdiction, the bank, planning other arrangements for offshore business. 

Serbia:  Substance for Offshore Companies

Let us consider, for example, the following situation. You may have incorporated an offshore company on a remote island, lured by the prospect of confidentiality or zero tax. You have a plan to generate income in some other jurisdiction. 

Then it turns out that there are hardly any banks on the island. Or, their requirements for the company’s substance are prohibitive. These days, even offshore banks and financial institutions on remote islands are reluctant to open corporate accounts for offshore companies that often look like suspicious shell entities. 

So, what is the solution? Can anyone help this company out if the owner’s intentions are honest and genuine?    

We could offer several legal solutions and our expert services, including even an account opening in Europe. But how is it possible?

Let us recommend you Serbia as one of the best options at the moment. A solid advantage of this opportunity is the ability even for a classic offshore company to create a real presence, with a tax number, utility bill and even employees in Serbia at reasonable costs.  This is called “substance” and it makes it much easier to open a bank account! 

Advantages of banks in Serbia for offshore business development

There are nearly 30 local and international banks in Serbia, and most are ready to work with foreign investors. Some of them target only the domestic market or specific niches. Below are 6 of the most interesting banks to consider if you would like to open an account in Serbia and Europe at large.

OTP BANK

OTP Bank is a Hungarian bank established in 1989. It has earned its solid reputation across Central and Eastern Europe. Today OTP Group has 1700 branches across 11 countries: Hungary, Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Montenegro,  and Slovenia. The 2019 OTP Bank’s Consolidated annual report featured 40 000 employees, 20 mln clients.

In 2021, OTP Bank will complete the merger of its two member-banks in Serbia: OTP Banka Srbija a.d. Beograd (the former Societe Generale Bank – the 4th in the Serbian market in 2017, acquired by OTB Group in Serbia in 2019) and Vojvođanska banka a.d. Novi Sad (formerly known as OTP banka Srbija, the 6th in the Serbian market, with over 5% of market share and the 3rd largest branch network in the country, cooperating with OTP Bank since 2007, its member since 2017).  As of today, OTP Bank has nearly 100 branches across Serbia

Merits:

  • a flexible policy of accepting new customers;
  • extensive experience in Central and Eastern European markets;
  • great service;
  • a solid stock of liquidity;
  • active integration of advanced digital technologies;
  • high-profile reputation in the Serbian banking market;
  • the strongest investment and custody bank on the market;
  • the merger of the two banks to be completed in April 2021.

Reservations:

  • at the moment the bank is in transition;
  • possible delays in service due to the merger.

UNICREDIT BANK

UniCredit is a Pan European Commercial Bank rendering corporate & investment banking, commercial banking, and wealth management services.

This Italian-Austrian-German banking group features more than 8,500 branches in 17 countries and about 100,000 employees. It is proud of its companies and offices in different parts of the world: 95 in Europe, 2 in America, 1 in the Middle East and Africa, 8 in Asia and Oceania. The group has earned one of the strongest positions in the European banking market.

The bank established its presence in Serbia in 2001 and has opened 72 branches. Because of its long pedigree, the bank has developed a menu of products and services based on advanced European know-how to meet the local demand. It is focused in Serbia on cash management, trade finance, and custody services.

Merits:

  • a large network of European branches, companies, and offices that facilitate international payments and transfers;
  • local branches of foreign companies are welcome to open accounts;
  • the best online and mobile bank in Serbia at the moment;
  • multi-currency Visa cards, MasterCards in RSD, USD, EUR;
  • availability of VIP service for our clients;

Reservations:

  • too many issues are handled through branches: offices are overcrowded.

EXPO BANK

Expo Bank is one of the smallest banks in Serbia – it has 7 branches in 6 cities of Serbia. It has been operating in the Serbian market since 1990.

At one time it was part of a Cypriot bank, then a Czech bank, and now it is directly owned by Expo Group owner Igor Kim. 

It is a universal bank with a range of retail and business banking products and services for individuals and corporate clients.

Merits:

  • serves fewer customers than big banks: fewer queues and shorter waiting time;
  • allows to withdraw quite large amounts at branches that do not require notification well in advance;
  • features one of the best Total Capital ratio;
  • suitable for ‘old-school’ banking, when you refer to the bank mostly to withdraw/deposit cash and are not expected to communicate with the bank on other occasions.

Reservations:

  • the menu of banking cards is not very extensive;
  • Internet banking is not ideal;
  • employees, for the most part, do not speak foreign languages.

BANCA INTESA

Banca Intesa Beograd is a division of a major Italian bank. Outside Italy, the group focuses on the markets of Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.

Intesa is one of the largest banks in Serbia. It is owned by the Intesa Sanpaolo Group (Italian holding awarded in 2020 the ‘Bank of the Year in Western Europe’ title). 

In 2020, ‘The Banker’ financial magazine recognized Banca Intesa Beograd as the ‘Bank of the Year in Serbia’.

Banca Intesa is one of those banks that are ‘too big to fail’. 

Banca Intesa Beograd has over 150 branches in almost 100 cities in Serbia.

Merits:

  • a large bank with a lot of services;
  • convenient for frequent international transfers.

Reservations:

  • Internet banking is inconvenient, while brick-and-mortar offices are overcrowded with clients;
  • over recent years, it has been overly cautious trying to avoid any possible risk;
  • cash withdrawals are restricted – up to 5000 euros per day.

POŠTANSKA ŠTEDIONICA

Banka Poštanska štedionica a.d. Beograd is a bank owned by the government – the largest Serbian bank in terms of the number of employees, but only the 7th in terms of assets (as of 2019).

The bank was founded in the 1920s and quickly became the main financial and savings institution in Yugoslavia. No wonder that this bank was the first to introduce IBM computers (1969) and the first to issue credit cards.

The bank runs many branches all over Serbia and is not connected to post offices as it used to be. It offers a large menu of banking cards. It is the only bank in Serbia that supports China UnionPay International cards. 

The bank has strong ties to the government and can open accounts for projects that are closely tied to government organizations.

Merits:

  • convenient for projects requiring the issue of many cards (e.g. fintech);
  • suitable for projects related to the state, eg Government tenders;
  • allows commercial activities that other banks do not support;
  • offers retail and business banking services to corporate clients and a variety of services to individuals;
  • decisions are made directly in Belgrade: no need to follow requirements set in foreign head offices

Reservations:

  • Employees do not speak foreign languages (on average), 
  • the bank does not open accounts remotely and is less focused on international business than other banks.

EUROBANK

Eurobank a.d. is a member of the Greek Eurobank Ergasias banking group with branches in Greece, Luxembourg, Serbia, Bulgaria, Great Britain, and Cyprus. In 2006, it took over the network from the Serbian state-owned National Savings Bank. 

After two successful acquisitions some years ago, there are 80 local branches and 4 facilities in business centers across Serbia, and the recently opened modern head office in Belgrade. 

The bank is focused on services rendered through digital channels. Due to this, there are fewer people in the branches and this favorably distinguishes the bank from larger competitors. 

Merits:

  • many services are available digitally;
  • fewer people in the branches;
  • easy to work with.

Reservations:

  • the brand is not prominently promoted internationally;
  • prefers low profile operations.

BANK OF CHINA

According to the S&P Global Market Intelligence’s annual global bank ranking published in 2020, BOC has retained its usual 4th place among the world’s biggest banks (by the amount of assets) in 2019. Its branch in Serbia was established relatively recently – in 2017, after it had opened a branch in Hungary. 

Bank of China Srbija a.d. Beograd is small, focused on the corporate segment. But we are sure that it will increase its presence due to the huge interest of Chinese companies in the Serbian market. Billions of dollars have already been invested in the Serbian economy and this is just the beginning.

The bank is focused on issuing loans on a variety of conditions.

Merits:

  • it is part of a huge bank with branches all over the world with a great opportunity for international business and cross-border transfers;
  • the bank is actively engaged in lending to businesses;
  • ideal for companies cooperating with China: import/export, investment, industry. 

Reservations: 

  • for now, the bank in Serbia remains relatively small;
  • it can be interesting mostly for those companies that are somehow focused on cooperation with China.

How can offshore companies open accounts with banks in Serbia?

If you decide to open an account in Serbia for a foreign/offshore company, you will find it a nearly impossible task … UNLESS you follow our advice.

It is easy for a local branch to open a local European account with an international bank in Serbia. 

What in other countries can be very challenging is rather straightforward in Serbia, thanks to the Serbian legislation. 

You can open a bank account for your Serbian branch and it will serve your foreign company’s purposes.

Basically, it is a 3-step plan: 

set up a branch in Serbia + provide for its substance + open an account.

The best part is that the plan is quite affordable, as the branch registration and its substance would not cost you much. The monthly costs of keeping a branch in Serbia are from EUR 200, including the office rent and accounting.

The actual procedure will take, of course, more steps but they are quite reasonable:

  • open a branch in Serbia (you can find on our portal several recent detailed articles about relevant requirements, opportunities, prompts);
  • the branch will get a TIN in the Serbian register, but it will still be  considered part of a foreign/offshore company;
  • open an IBAN account in RSD, EUR, USD, GBP, or CHF for your Serbian branch (please note that the KYC procedures are reasonable);
  • payments cards (Visa or MasterCard and American Express in the case of Intesa) are available;
  • run your offshore business as intended.

Benefits of having a branch in Serbia

A branch with a bank account in Serbia opens your access to the market of Serbia, the EU, the U.S., Russia without additional customs duties. And there are also Special Economic Zones, where you do not have to pay VAT.

Besides, Serbia has not signed the Automatic Information Exchange Agreement and has not set the deadline for launching the automatic information exchange.

If you decide to hire local people, open a bigger office, and even start production, the total costs will be much cheaper than in many other European countries.

Things to know about the Serbian branch

  • it can be registered quickly;
  • remote registration is as a rule possible;
  • the branch gets its TIN;
  • the branch must have a legal address and an accounting office – such substance is quite sufficient for the bank to approve your application for the account;
  • the branch will remain legally part of your foreign company;
  • the profits of the branch are taxable in Serbia, but the income of the parent company is not;
  • payments and transfers from the parent company are not considered as profit;
  • the branch and the parent company have different accounts.

To sum up, Serbia today is an excellent win-win solution for the task of opening an IBAN bank account with a European bank while enjoying the advantages of offshore business.

For more details, please send your questions to the e-mail address given at the top of this page or submit the fillable online booking form for a FREE consultation.

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