Malta, a small island nation in the Mediterranean, has long been a popular destination for businesses seeking a favorable tax environment and robust regulatory framework. However, opening a bank account in Malta as a business entity has become increasingly challenging in recent years due to the country’s low-risk policies. In this article, I will explore the banking options available to businesses in Malta and discuss how to navigate these challenges.
The Big Players: Bank of Valletta and HSBC
The largest banks in Malta are Bank of Valletta and HSBC. While these institutions offer a wide range of banking services and have a strong presence in the country, they have adopted low-risk policies that make it difficult for many businesses to open accounts. This is due in part to Malta’s unfortunate greylisting a few years ago. Although the country is no longer grey-listed, the financial sector has tightened up significantly to curb any abuses.
The chances of opening a bank account with these two banks are slim, especially if it’s for a non-traditional business. They are simply not willing to take any chances and are not very interested in attracting new business.
Alternative Banking Options: Agribank and Sparkasse
For businesses that encounter difficulties opening accounts with Bank of Valletta and HSBC, there are alternative banks that may prove more amenable. Agribank, an agricultural and commercial bank, has had some success in accommodating businesses unable to establish accounts with larger banks. Similarly, Sparkasse Bank Malta, a subsidiary of the German Sparkassen Group, has been known to provide banking services to companies facing challenges with the larger institutions.
Other banks that operate in Malta and could potentially serve as alternatives include APS Bank, Lombard Bank, and FIMBank. These banks may be more accommodating to foreign businesses, but it is essential to research their specific requirements and policies to determine whether they are a good fit for your company.
It is quite common for these alternative banks to charge an application fee, in order to cover their costs of processing the application and determine if your business would be a good fit. They will also typically charge extra fees on a yearly basis when compared to the larger banks that don’t have any fees beyond the usual card fees and currency conversion fees.
The Hassle-Free Option: Wise (formerly TransferWise)
For businesses seeking a more straightforward solution, Wise (formerly known as TransferWise) is an excellent option. This fintech company provides borderless accounts, allowing businesses to receive and make payments in multiple currencies with minimal fees. While Wise is not a traditional bank, it offers many of the core banking services that businesses need, such as a debit card and currency conversion.
Wise’s borderless accounts are especially useful for businesses with international transactions and make it easier to manage finances without dealing with the stringent requirements of Maltese banks.
While opening a bank account in Malta as a business entity can be challenging due to the country’s risk-averse banking policies, there are options available for those who persevere. By considering alternative banks like Agribank and Sparkasse or using innovative financial solutions like Wise, businesses can successfully establish their banking presence in Malta and reap the tax benefits of operating in this country.