Offshore Banks. An Overview

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Offshore banks with a full license receive a license from the host country, allowing them to engage in banking and/or trust activities outside the host country. These banks have the right to work with clients outside the country in which they are located.

Some of the services provided by these institutions include deposit taking, credit, wire and electronic funds transfers, letters of credit, fund management, trustee services and trade finance among other things.
Offshore banks with restricted license receive a license which is similar to unlimited bank licenses except that such banks can only work with foreign persons or corporations, which are specified in their licenses.

Official banks relate to institutions that are organized and licensed in one country and also receive a license from a second country to establish representation. They can not do business in the second country, but they can do business with any other country. The minimum registered capital of an offshore bank is much higher than that of ordinary banks.

Offshore locations are usually faraway, and thus significantly costly to call in, this renders physical access for account holders almost impossible. Although with today’s advanced electronic communications, customers can easily access the offshore institution either by mail, phone or via the internet.

Affluent individuals enjoy greater access to offshore private banking due to high entry thresholds associated with setting up and holding of offshore accounts. But, elementary savings accounts are also available, and these generally come with lower account maintenance fees.  

Offshore banking licenses come in several several categories, and these include the unlimited general license which entitles an offshore bank to engage in virtually all types of banking operations pertaining to servicing the banking needs of non-residents. The limited license imposes restrictions on certain types of operations of the offshore institution.

An offshore bank may begin its work by obtaining a limited license and eventually reorganize to take full offshore institution status. Offshore banks are under the constant supervision of financial authorities of the country of registration.

Major international financial institutions, such as Barclays bank, who have a solid reputation, and it is not difficult to register an offshore branch or agency and get a banking license.

Offshore banking is an vital aspect of the global financial system, and a portion of the global capital flows via offshore establishments. Regulation of offshore banking is supervised by supra-national organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Offshore centers such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands dominate activities in this domain, even though various other offshore locations provide offshore banking services to some extent.



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