European Banking

UK and European banking responsiveness can be kindly be described as backward compared to the US. Other more colourful adjectives are often applied but if you’re looking at setting up in Europe either be prepared to be frustrated at how difficult it can be to set up a bank account or have an alternative plan to use a US based bank.

In recent years there’s been a myriad of legislation with UK and European banking specifically on account opening. The key theme of this is that the banks have numerous internal procedures to ‘know their customer’ in the context of anti money laundering checks. The conventional wisdom is that it ought to be pretty obvious to a bank that a particular organisation is not a front for laundering illegally sourced funds but in defence of the banks how do they know and how do they evidence they know for compliance procedures?

The checks the European banks go through nowadays may appear extreme, and they are immensely time consuming and often eat up the time and energy of the first hire in Europe which is typically a senior level business development professional who ought to be out there selling. The UK and European banks need to be certain of who the beneficial owners of the parent entity are. This is especially difficult to isolate when there is a VC or more than one VC involved with an ownership percentage of the parent company in the US. Some European banks want to know who the key individuals in the VC are and even on several occasions they’ve asked for the details of the major investors to that VC are – which of course no-one is able to divulge.

A more operationally practical solution for UK and European banking is to go to your US bank and ask them to open an account in Europe. Nearly always if they don’t have their own UK branch they will use an affiliate bank in the UK who will offer traditional facilities for receiving cheque payments and online services. The big advantage is time, your current US bank would presumably have run checks on the US business already so there’s an historical relationship already in place.

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