It’s been a while since I did one of these. One of Africa’s largest banks and head-quartered in South Africa, Standard Bank has established itself as one of the foremost gateways into Africa.
This review will focus on Standard Bank International, which is the bank’s offshore wing in Isle of Man and Jersey (with a branch in Guernsey) but I will also touch on Standard Bank in Mauritius and other locations.
- First Impressions
- Opening An Account
- Internet Banking
- Card Products
- Customer Service
- Account Management
- Other Services
- Final Notes
As usual: Take particular note to that I will not be discussing the financial health of the bank. This is not a bank recommendation post. It’s a retelling of my experiences with a bank.
With Standard Bank, you are dealing with a large bank. It’s not some small wealth management firm and it’s not some shell bank in a Caribbean island completely disconnected from the local market. It’s a bank that deeply rooted in day-to-day economies of South Africa, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and so on.
The bank is taking an increasingly stern approach to requiring non-resident clients have a connection to Africa. Sometimes it’s enough to be selling your product to Africa but at times the bank will insist on a physical presence in Africa or at least intention to market heavily into Africa.
The reason for this is that non-resident accounts need to be approved by a special committee, which operates on instructions from the board of directors, most of which is based in Africa.
The bank is usually one of the friendliest to interact with when you approach them as a prospective client. Where many other banks can be immediately dismissive, Standard Bank will give almost anyone and anything a chance to impress them.
Response-times can be slow, though. Often several days for simple requests. This is not a bank to approach as a prospective client if you are in a hurry.
South African banks in general are notorious when it comes to fees. Standard Bank used to be known for having low fees in onshore countries and African core markets, but have raised them in the last decade or so to being one of the highest. The bank relies on its strong reputation and high quality of services to justify the fees.
For the international client, there hasn’t been any such drastic changes. At 20 to 40 GBP per outgoing wire transfer (depending on currency and destination), it is high for Europe as a whole but competitive when looking at financial centers such as Isle of Man and Jersey.
Minimum deposit is a mere 4,000 GBP in order to avoid the 60 GBP monthly fee.
In Mauritius, the fees are about the same as other banks. Outgoing wire transfers are charged at 35 to 70 USD depending on amount, plus 25 USD to cover recipient fees (OUR transfer). There is no minimum deposit (other than for term deposits: 10,000 USD) although the bank expects at least a couple of thousands for non-resident clients.
Opening An Account
To open a bank account with Standard Bank is a fairly simple process.
As mentioned, the bank will often insist on there being a connection to Africa. This is not always enforced and you can get different results by asking at different times during a year.
The bank does not ask for any unusual documents when opening the account. Account opening remotely is the norm although an introducer can make the process much smoother. See Other Services.
The bank is happy to issue debit cards (available in GBP, EUR, USD, and AUD) but is lacking when it comes to more sophisticated card products.
Credit cards are not available with Standard Bank in Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
No cards are issued in Mauritius.
Standard Bank’s Internet banking is one of – if not the – best in Africa and competes with some of the better in the world when it comes to ease of use and functionality.
Two-factor authentication through security tokens are available.
Standard Bank makes it easy to manage multiple entities’ accounts from one view – something most other banks are still struggling with.
Generally good in Isle of Man, Jersey, and Mauritius. Availability hours could be better.
Staff speaks excellent English, and a range of other languages in certain areas.
Some of the best in the industry for larger corporate accounts.
Standard Bank is also a licensed trustee in for example Jersey and Isle of Man. They provide full-service solutions for incorporation (with nominees, if requested), banking, and even nominee signatories.
Incorporating with Standard Bank will usually waive the requirement for any significant African connection. It depends on what you are doing and your overall client profile.
Their fees are average for the jurisdictions.
In my experience, Standard Bank is an excellent bank.
With a modest minimum deposit, reasonable fees, and an appetite to consider any application, it has relatively low entry requirements. That is, if you can show some kind of connection to Africa.