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The Top 8 International Offshore Banks in Dubai 2024

Dec 27, 2023 | Finance

Are you setting up a business in the United Arab Emirates? You’ll need to open a bank account! We have compiled a list of the best banks in Dubai in 2024.

The UAE ranks well above the global average regarding total early-stage entrepreneurial activity and job creation expectation rate. Setting up a business in Dubai can be an attractive proposition for any entrepreneur, no matter your country of origin.

From getting a debit card and credit card to organising finances, banks in the UAE take care of every financial need. Keep reading to see which bank suits you best and the banking options available.

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The Top 8 International Offshore Banks in Dubai

You may be looking for an offshore bank to provide you with investment banking services, personal loans, credit cards, debit cards, and world-class banking facilities.

When opening an international bank account in the Middle East, you have many choices. If you are setting up an offshore company in the UAE or have recently made the move to the Emirates, you will want to choose a bank from the below list:

1. HSBC Middle East

A screenshot of the HSBC website, which is an international bank in Dubai.

The first of many banks in the UAE is HSBC Middle East. HSBC Middle East is a subsidiary of HSBC Holdings, the world’s second-largest bank by assets. Headquartered in Dubai, HSBC Middle East is the regional hub for its financial activities in the GCC countries and Yemen.

Key aspects of HSBC’s presence and offerings in the Middle East include:

  1. Extensive Regional Network: HSBC has a significant presence in the Middle East, with branches in key countries and financial centres. This network allows HSBC to offer localized services while leveraging its global reach.
  2. Wealth Management and Private Banking: Catering to high-net-worth individuals, HSBC offers specialized wealth management and private banking services. This includes investment advice, wealth planning, and exclusive banking solutions tailored to individual needs.
  3. Corporate and Investment Banking: HSBC supports businesses in the Middle East with various services, including corporate finance, advisory services, trade finance, and treasury solutions, helping businesses grow regionally and globally.
  4. Strong Focus on Trade and Infrastructure Financing: Given the Middle East’s strategic importance in global trade, HSBC is key in financing trade and infrastructure projects, aligning with the region’s economic development goals.
  5. Digital Innovation: HSBC has been focusing on digital innovation to enhance customer experience and streamline banking operations in the Middle East, offering advanced digital banking tools and platforms.
  6. Commitment to Sustainable Finance: HSBC increasingly focuses on sustainable finance, supporting projects and initiatives that contribute to environmental sustainability, a growing concern in the Middle East.
  7. Local and International Expertise: HSBC combines its global expertise with local knowledge to provide tailored financial solutions, meeting the diverse needs of its clients in the Middle East.

HSBC’s operations in the Middle East are characterized by their strong alignment with the region’s economic landscape, commitment to innovation, and focus on providing a comprehensive suite of services to meet the varied needs of individual, business, and corporate clients.

2. Citibank

An image of the Citibank website, which is an International bank in Dubai.

Citibank, a major international bank, offers a range of private banking services through its Citigold Private Client division, catering to high-net-worth individuals and families. Here are some key aspects and benefits of Citibank’s private banking services:

  1. Global Network: Citibank is one of the largest banks in the world, with operations in over 100 countries. Citibank’s global presence allows clients to access international markets and diverse investment opportunities, making it easier to manage assets worldwide.
  2. Personalized Wealth Management: Citigold Private Clients receive customized wealth management solutions, including investment advice, portfolio management, and financial planning tailored to their specific needs and goals.
  3. Diverse Investment Options: Citibank provides a wide array of investment products across different asset classes, including equities, bonds, mutual funds, and alternative investments, to help clients diversify their portfolios. For example, Citibank offers an array of Islamic banking products and services, making it a great choice for Muslim customers.
  4. Dedicated Relationship Managers: Clients have access to dedicated relationship managers and a team of financial experts who offer personalized advice and support, ensuring a high level of service and expertise.
  5. Comprehensive Banking Services: Besides investment services, Citibank offers exclusive banking solutions such as premium checking accounts, special lending rates, and other bespoke financial services.
  6. Estate Planning and Trust Services: Citibank assists clients with estate planning, trust services, and wealth transfer strategies, ensuring long-term financial security and legacy planning.
  7. Exclusive Privileges and Lifestyle Benefits: Citigold Private Clients enjoy various privileges, including access to exclusive events, lifestyle benefits, and bespoke experiences.
  8. Advanced Digital Tools: Citibank offers advanced digital banking tools for easy access to accounts, portfolio management, and seamless transactions, ensuring convenience and security.

Citibank’s approach to private banking is to offer comprehensive, personalized financial services combined with the convenience and resources of a global bank, making it a strong option for those seeking sophisticated wealth management and exclusive banking benefits.

3. Emirates NBD

A screenshot of Emirates NBD website, which is an International bank in Dubai.

Emirates NBD, a leading bank in the Middle East, offers an array of private banking services tailored to high-net-worth individuals (who invest USD 200,000 or equivalent in other currencies), particularly in the UAE and the wider Middle East region. Here’s an overview of the key features and benefits of Emirates NBD’s private banking:

  1. Shariah-compliant: Emirates NBD is one of the few banks in Dubai that offer Shariah-compliant banking products and services.
  2. Personalized Wealth Management: The bank provides customized wealth management solutions, including investment advisory, portfolio management, and financial planning services tailored to meet the unique needs and objectives of individual clients.
  3. Diverse Investment Opportunities: Emirates NBD offers a wide range of investment products covering various asset classes and geographies, allowing clients to diversify their investment portfolios effectively.
  4. Dedicated Relationship Management: Clients receive personalized attention and service from dedicated relationship managers, who provide expert advice and support based on understanding the client’s financial objectives.
  5. Estate and Succession Planning: The bank offers services in estate and succession planning, helping clients to manage and transfer wealth effectively across generations.
  6. Exclusive Banking Solutions: Private banking clients can access exclusive banking products and services, such as elite bank accounts, preferential loan rates, and customized financing solutions. These private banking clients are granted access to exclusive events, luxury experiences, and premium concierge services.
  7. Strong Local and International Presence: With a robust presence in the UAE and expanding international footprint, Emirates NBD is well-positioned to cater to its clients’ local and global financial needs.

Emirates NBD’s private banking services are designed to offer a blend of personalized wealth management and exclusive client benefits, making it a preferred choice for high-net-worth individuals in the Middle East looking for comprehensive financial services and advice.

4. Habib Bank AG Zurich

A screenshot of Habib Bank website, which is an International bank in Dubai.

Habib Bank AG Zurich (HBZ) is a prominent international offshore bank offering a diverse range of financial services. Key aspects of HBZ’s operations and offerings include:

  1. Diverse Financial Services: HBZ offers a comprehensive suite of services, including personal and commercial banking, corporate finance, trade finance, and wealth management. Habib Bank AG also offers Islamic banking products and services.
  2. Global Presence: Headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, HBZ operates in various key financial centres globally, providing services to various clients.
  3. Personal and Business Banking Solutions: The bank is known for its strong offerings in both personal and business banking, providing tailored solutions to meet the unique needs of its customers.
  4. Innovative Digital Banking: HBZ is committed to digital innovation, offering advanced online and mobile banking services to ensure convenience and efficiency for its clients.
  5. Focus on Trade Finance: Given its strong presence in regions like the Middle East and Asia, HBZ has developed considerable expertise in trade finance, a critical service for businesses in these rapidly growing economies.
  6. Commitment to Compliance and Security: The bank highly emphasises regulatory compliance and security, ensuring trust and reliability in all its banking operations.
  7. Community Involvement and Social Responsibility: HBZ actively engages in community development and social responsibility initiatives, contributing positively to the regions where it operates.

HBZ’s approach is marked by its blend of personalized customer service, innovative banking solutions, and a strong commitment to compliance and community involvement, making it a respected and reliable banking partner on a global scale.

5. Royal Bank of Canada

A screenshot of Royal Bank Canada website, which is an International bank in Dubai.

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Canada’s largest bank by market capitalization and one of the largest in the world, offers a wide range of financial services. Here are some key aspects of RBC’s operations and offerings:

  1. Diverse Financial Services: RBC provides a comprehensive suite of services, including personal and commercial banking, wealth management, insurance, investor services, and capital markets products and services globally.
  2. Global Presence: While RBC is headquartered in Toronto, Canada, it has a significant international presence, serving clients in major financial centres worldwide. It also provides its customers with access to over 50,000 ATM machines in more than 30 countries.
  3. Wealth Management Expertise: RBC is renowned for its wealth management services, offering tailored solutions for high-net-worth individuals and institutional investors, including investment management, estate and trust services, and private banking.
  4. Innovation and Digital Banking: RBC is at the forefront of digital banking innovations, providing clients with advanced digital tools and platforms for convenient banking and investment management. This allows customers to conduct banking transactions from the comfort of their own homes.
  5. Community and Economic Impact: RBC integrates a commitment to sustainability and community impact by focusing on responsible banking, environmental practices, and social initiatives while also investing in community development and supporting various local causes.
  6. Capital Markets and Investor Services: The bank also has a strong presence in capital markets, providing a range of services, including corporate and investment banking, treasury solutions, and market access to corporate, institutional, and government clients.

RBC’s approach is characterized by its combination of comprehensive financial services, commitment to innovation and sustainability, and a strong focus on client service, making it a prominent and trusted financial institution in Canada and globally.

6. Noor Bank

A screenshot of Noor Bank website, which is an International bank in Dubai.

Noor Bank, an Islamic bank based in the United Arab Emirates, offers a comprehensive range of Shariah-compliant financial services. Key aspects of Noor Bank’s operations and offerings include:

  1. Islamic Banking Services: Noor Bank specializes in providing Shariah-compliant banking solutions, including personal banking, corporate banking, wealth management, and treasury services.
  2. Commitment to Islamic Finance Principles: The bank is dedicated to upholding the principles of Islamic finance, ensuring all its products and services comply with Islamic law and ethics.
  3. Personal and Corporate Finance: The bank offers a variety of financial products such as Islamic mortgages, personal finance, business finance, and asset-based financing, all adhering to Islamic finance principles.
  4. Wealth Management and Private Banking: Noor Bank provides bespoke wealth management services, catering to the specific needs of high-net-worth individuals with Shariah-compliant investment options.
  5. Strong Retail and Corporate Presence: With a significant presence in the UAE, Noor Bank serves a diverse clientele, ranging from individuals to large corporations and SMEs, with tailored financial solutions.
  6. International Network: Noor Bank has a network of branches in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah Free Trade Zone, and Al Ain. While originally based in Abu Dhabi, Noor Bank has an international network in the United Kingdom, North Africa and Saudi Arabia.
  7. Digital Banking Innovations: Noor Bank emphasizes digital innovation, offering advanced online and mobile banking platforms for a convenient and efficient banking experience.
  8. Community Engagement and CSR: Noor Bank actively participates in community development and corporate social responsibility initiatives, reflecting its commitment to the socio-economic development of the UAE.

Noor Bank’s approach combines adherence to Islamic banking principles with a focus on innovation and customer service, making it a prominent Islamic banking institution in the UAE and the region.

7. Dubai Islamic Bank

A screenshot of Dubai Islamic Bank website, which is an International bank in Dubai.

Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB), the first Islamic bank in the world and one of the largest in the UAE, offers a comprehensive range of Shariah-compliant financial services. Key aspects of DIB’s operations and offerings include:

  1. Pioneering Islamic Banking: As the world’s first Islamic bank, DIB has been a trailblazer in Shariah-compliant banking, setting standards and practices that many other Islamic banks follow. DIB strictly adheres to Islamic finance laws and ethical standards, with a dedicated Shariah board overseeing all products and operations.
  2. Personal and Corporate Services: Catering to a broad clientele, DIB provides services like Islamic mortgages, investment banking, personal finance, corporate finance, and asset management, ensuring ethical and interest-free banking solutions.
  3. Strong Retail Banking Network: DIB boasts a substantial retail banking network in the UAE, serving a diverse customer base with a range of Shariah-compliant banking products and services.
  4. Innovative Digital Banking Solutions: Embracing digital transformation, DIB provides advanced online and mobile banking services, enhancing customer experience and accessibility.
  5. Community Involvement and CSR: The bank actively participates in community development and corporate social responsibility initiatives, contributing to the social and economic development of the UAE.

Dubai Islamic Bank’s approach is characterized by its commitment to Islamic banking principles, innovative financial solutions, and a strong focus on serving the community, making it a leading institution in the field of Islamic finance both in the UAE and globally.

8. Standard Chartered Bank

A screenshot of Stanard Charters website, which is an International bank in Dubai.

Standard Chartered Bank, a leading international banking group with a strong presence in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, offers a wide range of financial services. Here are some key aspects of Standard Chartered Bank’s operations and offerings:

  1. Global Network with Local Expertise: While Standard Chartered is headquartered in London, it operates a vast network across many countries, with a significant presence in emerging markets, providing clients with a blend of global reach and local knowledge. The Standard Chartered bank has almost a dozen branches and over 100 ATMs in the United Arab Emirates.
  2. Strong Focus on Emerging Markets: Standard Chartered has a strategic focus on fast-growing and dynamic markets, offering specialized services that cater to the unique financial needs of these regions.
  3. Innovative Banking Solutions: The bank is known for its innovative digital banking platforms and solutions, enhancing the banking experience for individual and corporate clients alike.
  4. Wealth Management and Private Banking: Standard Chartered provides bespoke wealth management and private banking services, offering tailored financial solutions to high-net-worth individuals and families.
  5. Sustainable Finance and Responsible Banking: The bank is strongly committed to sustainable finance, supporting projects and initiatives that contribute to sustainable economic growth and environmental conservation.
  6. Community Engagement and CSR: Standard Chartered is actively involved in various community development and corporate social responsibility initiatives, focusing on education, health, and environmental sustainability.
  7. Corporate and Institutional Banking: The bank offers a comprehensive range of services for corporate and institutional clients, including trade finance, treasury services, and risk management solutions.

Standard Chartered’s approach, marked by its focus on emerging markets, commitment to innovation, and sustainability, makes it a distinct and valuable banking partner for diverse clientele globally.

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Dubai International Financial Centre

The DIFC stands as a pivotal financial hub in Dubai, housing many of the world’s leading banks, including Citibank, Standard Chartered, and Emirates NBD, amongst others. This globally recognized financial zone offers a unique environment with several advantages:

  1. Tax Incentives: Banks operating in the DIFC benefit from a 50-year tax-free guarantee on income and profits, which is a significant draw for international financial institutions. This tax-friendly environment is conducive to business growth and profitability.
  2. 100% Foreign Ownership: The DIFC allows banks like those we’ve discussed to have 100% foreign ownership. This provision is particularly attractive as it offers international banks full control over their regional operations without needing a local partner.
  3. Strategic Location for Major Banks: The presence of major banks like Citibank and Standard Chartered within the DIFC underlines its importance as a strategic location for financial operations in the Middle East. For businesses, this means access to a wide range of international banking services and expertise.
  4. Regulatory Environment: Governed by an independent regulator, the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), the DIFC operates under a unique legal framework based on English common law. This provides a familiar and stable legal environment for international businesses and financial institutions.
  5. Gateway to Emerging Markets: The DIFC serves as a gateway for banks to tap into emerging markets in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. This is beneficial for banks like Emirates NBD, which are looking to expand their footprint in these regions.
  6. Robust Infrastructure: With state-of-the-art infrastructure and business-friendly services, the DIFC creates an ideal environment for banks to operate efficiently and effectively cater to their clients’ needs.

By situating themselves in the DIFC, banks like Citibank, Standard Chartered, and Emirates NBD are well-positioned to leverage these benefits, offering a comprehensive suite of services to businesses and individuals in the region and beyond. The DIFC’s blend of tax efficiency, full foreign ownership, robust regulatory practices, and strategic location makes it a cornerstone of Dubai’s financial landscape and an attractive destination for global banking giants.

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How to Choose The Best International Bank in Dubai for Businesses

Dubai, renowned as a leading offshore financial centre, is an attractive destination for businesses looking to establish banking relationships. The city’s pro-business environment, coupled with a plethora of international banks offering specialized services, makes it a prime choice for businesses. Here’s how to select the best international bank in Dubai for your business needs:

  1. Industry-Specific Expertise: Look for a bank with a strong track record and experience in dealing with businesses in your sector. Such a bank will have a deeper understanding of your industry’s unique financial needs and challenges, enabling them to provide customized banking solutions.
  2. Strong Reputation in the OFC Market: A bank’s reputation in the offshore financial centre market is crucial. Assess their standing and track record in the market. This involves evaluating their stability, customer service quality, and regulatory compliance.
  3. Competitive Exchange Rates and Fees: Since international businesses often involve cross-border transactions, compare the exchange rates and fees for international transfers offered by different banks. Opt for a bank offering competitive rates and transparent fee structures to minimize transaction costs.
  4. Additional Services: Consider the range of additional services a bank offers that can benefit your business. Services like mobile banking, trade finance solutions, and asset management can provide added convenience and support your business operations effectively.
  5. Ease of Doing Business: Look into factors such as the ease of account opening, the level of digital banking services, and the availability of dedicated support for business clients. A bank that offers a streamlined, customer-friendly approach can save you time and hassle.
  6. Network and Global Reach: If your business requires international reach, consider a bank with a strong global network. This can facilitate easier international transactions and provide access to a wider range of financial services.

By considering these factors, you can identify an international bank in Dubai that not only meets your business’s banking needs but also supports your business growth and expansion strategies.

Do You Need a Bank Account for a Visa in Dubai?

When applying for a business visa in Dubai, having a bank account in the United Arab Emirates becomes crucial, although it’s not a direct requirement for the visa application itself. It’s more about the necessity in the context of setting up and registering your business in the UAE.

The company registration process in Dubai typically involves several steps:

  • Deciding the legal entity type for your Dubai business.
  • Choosing a trade name.
  • Applying for a business license.
  • Securing office space through rental or purchase.
  • Obtaining necessary pre-approvals.
  • Officially registering your business.

While opening a local bank account isn’t explicitly listed as a step, it’s implicitly required since you’ll need to handle your UAE business’s finances.

Interestingly, you’re not limited to just banking with a UAE-based bank. You have the flexibility to open an account with offshore banks, including those in jurisdictions offering tax incentives. This could be particularly advantageous for businesses looking to optimize their financial management within the legal frameworks available.

An infographic about international banking for businesses in Dubai

How to Open an Account With a Bank in Dubai

Thanks to its favourable banking environment, Dubai is a prime destination for opening offshore bank accounts. Here’s a simplified guide to setting up a bank account in Dubai:

  1. Physical Presence: Most banks in Dubai require you to be physically present for account opening. This means planning a visit to the UAE and scheduling an appointment with your chosen bank.
  2. Required Documentation: Be prepared to present essential documents during your appointment. This typically includes your passport, proof of address, and proof of income. The bank will conduct a credit check and identity verification for their due diligence.
  3. Selecting the Right Account Type: Dubai offers various offshore banking options, each catering to different needs. For example, if you’re looking for tax advantages, you might want to consider an offshore trust or foundation. On the other hand, you might want to consider using a numbered account if you’re looking for anonymity.
  4. Getting Started: The initial step is to reach out to a bank in Dubai to arrange an appointment. Ensure you have all the necessary paperwork ready for a smooth process.
  5. Ease of Setup: With proper preparation and documentation, the account setup process in Dubai can be straightforward and efficient.

Remember, while the process is relatively direct, it’s always wise to consult with a business solutions specialist or financial advisor to ensure you make the best choice for your financial needs. With careful planning, you can have your offshore bank account operational in Dubai in no time.

An infographic about international offshore banking in Dubai.

The Benefits & Pitfalls Of Offshore Banking

Banking offshore has become increasingly popular in recent years as people look for ways to protect their assets and improve their financial situations. This is especially true for entrepreneurs setting up businesses in Dubai.

There are a number of advantages to offshore banking, including the following:

  • They are located in offshore financial centres offering favourable tax regimes and confidentiality protections. This can help people to reduce their taxable income and protect their privacy. For instance, many international banks do not disclose account holders’ information to third parties without the account holder’s express permission. This helps to protect account holder information from being accessed by unauthorized individuals.
  • Offshore banks offer competitive higher interest rates than banks in developed countries. This is because they face less regulation and competition and because they typically lend to less risky borrowers.
  • Banking offshore incurs different legalities and regulations compared to banks in developed countries. This can make it easier to obtain loans and other financing types and structure transactions in a way that minimises taxes.
  • Another benefit of offshore banking is that it provides account holders with access to a wider range of investment opportunities. For example, many international banks offer accounts allowing holders to invest in foreign currencies, stocks, and other assets. This can help account holders diversify their portfolios and hedge against risks.

However, offshore banks have come under increased scrutiny in recent years, proving to have some potential pitfalls:

  • Offshore banks have been accused of facilitating tax evasion and money laundering.
  • In addition, offshore banks are not subject to the same regulations as banks in developed countries, which can make them a risky investment.

As a result, it is important to weigh the risks and benefits of offshore banking before making any decisions. However, we ultimately view them as a safe, great option for high-net-worth individuals.

Open Your Bank Account in Dubai

Our exploration of Dubai’s banking landscape, including key players like HSBC, Citibank, Emirates NBD, and Standard Chartered, underscores the city’s status as a major financial hub. The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) stands out for its tax incentives and global banking presence, offering significant advantages for businesses and individuals.

We hope you feel confident choosing the right bank in Dubai; however, if you want help making this ever-important decision, get in touch to book a consultation.

Virtuzone is Dubai’s #1 business setup expert, serving entrepreneurs and highly skilled professionals all across the United Arab Emirates. We offer both business setup services and bank account opening services.

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