HSBC lets international customers open US checking accounts through online application

Last modified August 20, 2020. Published August 20, 2020.

’s U.S. affiliate debuted an digital application that will allow bank customers to open U.S. checking accounts remotely from anywhere in the world without needing to visit a bank branch in person.

The new International Client Onboarding app, revealed Thursday, is the London-based bank’s latest digital-based offering. It uses virtual ID verification through a video call for account opening and setup for qualified international customers. 

HSBC said the offering reduces processing time for new U.S. premier accounts from two weeks to a few days. The process was previously manual and paper-based, and required a visit to an HSBC branch 90% of the time.

The bank developed the new application method because it found that customers considered visiting branches to open new accounts to be "a major pain point" in the banking process. International customers may also find it much more appealing to open U.S.-based accounts from abroad rather than travel.

“This new program is the first in-country digital application journey that allows new-to-bank or existing international clients the ability to open U.S.-based accounts from home, a need that is heightened by the current pandemic,” said Paul Mullins, a regional head at HSBC.

“Our desire is to transform the world’s banking experience: to make it simpler, better and faster; to make it safe and secure; to make it easier for individuals to manage their money and for companies to do business."

The process involves clients submitting a digital application, followed by HSBC International Banking Center team members conducting a video call with clients. Customers can finalize the account-opening process and be enrolled in online banking tools or other additional HSBC products through the video call, the bank said.

“This new journey provides a ‘wow factor’ for our international clients, enabling them to start their relationship in the U.S. without delay and allowing HSBC USA to grow safely beyond our branch footprint,” said Marcos Meneguzzi, head of digital and unsecured lending at HSBC.

Having the ability to open checking accounts digitally has been a standard practice for several years at most large U.S. banks, but these have typically been limited to basic account features for domestic and existing clients. 

But banks have upped their digital perks and streamlined their processes since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced most U.S. bank branches to close temporarily during mandated shutdowns. 

Incorporating international clients, like HSBC has, will cut down on the wait times that are typical for customers abroad. In the past, it has been difficult for nonresidents and noncitizens to open U.S. accounts without a Social Security number, due to the USA Patriot Act that was passed in 2001.

HSBC Bank USA offers retail banking and wealth management, commercial banking, private banking and global banking services. It is a subsidiary of the London-based HSBC Holdings, which is the sixth-largest bank in the world and the largest bank in Europe. In 2019, HSBC Holdings had $2.715 trillion in assets.