Among the nations of Southeast Asia, Thailand stands with the strongest. Compared to most of its neighbours, it has modern legal and banking systems, a dynamic economy and a strengthening currency.

Businesses and entrepreneurs continue to arrive in the Land of Smiles, looking to expand into the Asian market. Naturally, they need open a business bank account in Thailand.

The challenges involved in opening a personal bank account in Thailand are fairly considerable in their own right, but mostly boil down to requiring reams and reams of documentation.

Unsurprisingly, opening a business bank account is just as heavy on the paperwork, so we’ve got a guide to help you prepare for the process.

Can a foreign corporate entity open a business bank account in Thailand?

The short answer is “yes”. Naturally, a hefty proportion of those businesses opening accounts in Thailand will be overseas corporations who want to start a local office here.

That being the case, the process and paperwork required is largely the same as you would need if you were starting a new company in Thailand.

The only big difference in the process is that you will need to make sure that documents issued by overseas entities are certified by your Thai embassy, plus you may also need proper government-issued licenses and certificates to prove that you’re permitted to trade in Thailand.

How do you open a business bank account in Thailand?

Much like opening a personal bank account, the process for opening a business bank account in Thailand varies from bank to bank, branch to branch and even from one day to the next.

Branch staff and managers have a surprising amount of influence over day-to-day operations, meaning that some might demand more documents while others will be happy with less.

One of the best approaches is to start with the basic documents that pretty much every bank will require, put on your smartest business attire, go to your nearest branch, cross your fingers and hope for the best.

Try your luck at two or three branches and see what else they need from you, if anything. Bear in mind that the process of opening a business bank account can take about a week in total, so don’t expect to come away from your walk around town with a fresh bank book.

You will almost certainly be expected to be able to produce the following documents for any Thai bank - originals where possible, though certified copies may be accepted:

• A recent copy of your company’s Registration Certificate (no more than a month old)

• A tax ID card for your business

• ID cards for every member of the board of directors (either a Thai National ID or a passport)

• Stamped minutes from a Board of Directors meeting giving the reason for requiring a business bank account and who will be authorised to use it.

As you might have guessed from this list and our suggested approach, opening an account online is impossible. You will have to go into a bricks-and-mortar branch.

Can a non-resident open a business bank account in Thailand?

Again, the short answer is “yes”. Some Thai banks have a good range of services for non-resident customers, particularly the bigger institutions like Bangkok Bank and Kasikornbank.

However, there will be limits on what you will be able to do with that account. Some typical banking functions and services might not be available to you. You may also need to apply at a specific branch (perhaps the bank’s head office) and produce additional documents.

Which is the best bank in Thailand for business?

While there are a number of international banks operating in Thailand, such as Citibank and HSBC, the number of branches they operate tends to be quite limited.

By contrast, the larger of the domestic banks have thousands of branches and ATMs on every corner which, in the relatively old-fashioned worked of banking in Thailand, makes them the better choice.

While we could go down the whole list of the major and minor firms available, bigger is better when it comes to business banking in Thailand. The top four companies dominate the market as they have the most branches, the most assets and the best services. These are:

•       Bangkok Bank

•       Siam Commercial Bank

•       Kasikornbank

•       Krungthai Bank

Bangkok Bank

As well as being the best bank for foreign individuals to use, Bangkok Bank also offers the best services for businesses of any size.

They have over 1,200 branches around Thailand and more than 20 overseas, offer the best digital banking services and can provide support for a wide range of business needs.

Whether you’re starting an SME or representing a larger organisation, they have the assets and services to support you.

The one downside to Bangkok Bank, when it comes to opening a business bank account in Thailand, is that they tend to have more stringent requirements when it comes to the list of documents.

Even just opening a personal account can sometimes require a certified letter from your embassy.

Opening a current account for an SME requires at least a 20,000 baht deposit as well as house registration documents, shareholder registration documents and more.

It means the process of opening the account will be a bit slower and more complicated, but it pays off in the end.

Siam Commercial Bank

In terms of sheer size - factoring in assets and number of branches - Siam Commercial Bank is very close behind Bangkok Bank.

They’re even slightly ahead, in some terms - specifically when it comes to opening an account. The process tends to be much easier and has fewer requirements, including no minimum deposit.

When it comes to services, the SCB One account is one of very few in Thailand that’s interest bearing and includes several fee-free services.

Perhaps the biggest failing of SCB is its digital banking service, which is way behind the competition in terms of what you can do with it and how easy it is to use.

It is worth noting that they are closing branches to free up capital to invest in their web and mobile banking services, so they are at least looking towards the future.

However, they’re very late out of the starting gate and Bangkok Bank and Kasikornbank already have a commanding lead in this regard.

Kasikornbank

As we just said, Kasikornbank is one of the more forward-thinking institutions in Thailand, with excellent digital banking services - perhaps not quite as good as Bangkok Bank’s, but not far behind.

They offer a good choice of services for SMEs and larger corporate entities and, like SCB, there’s no minimum deposit to open a business bank account in Thailand.

In fact, it’s really very easy to open business account with Kasikornbank as few of the documents have to be recent copies - something which most other banks insist on.

Perhaps the biggest downside to Kasikornbank as a business bank is the fact that they offer relatively few bonuses and benefits. There’s no special fee-free period or promotional discounts - they just do what they do.

Krungthai Bank

Krungthai Bank is part-owned by the government, though don’t expect too many benefits from that fact.

It is one of the easiest institutions to open a business bank account at in Thailand, though, and most of their services can be accessed through their [somewhat old-fashioned] e-Banking system.

While they have no shortage of branches around the country - only fractionally fewer than Bangkok Bank - it is nonetheless advisable to call and book an appointment in advance.

Sadly, Krungthai’s support for SMEs isn’t so foreigner-friendly, with the subsection of their website devoted to such services having no English version.

Important tips on opening a business bank account in Thailand

While it goes without saying in anything business-related that you should always read the fine print, this is especially true when opening a business bank account in Thailand.

Take special note of any bank fees and charges that you may have to incur. Likely as not, they won’t be the same as they are in your home country.

Additions to your overheads may include a monthly account handling charge, as well as fixed fees on any and all transactions.

They probably won’t be much individually, but once you factor in the number of transactions you’ll be conducting every month, you might find that a sizeable sum will be leaving your accounts.

With international businesses, transferring money out of the country will likely be a regular challenge. Outbound remittance from Thailand can be very difficult, and doing so through your bank will likely incur further fees.