One of the key elements when it comes to to invest in a foreign country or just move to reside in it is the banking sector. Whether it is to open a basic current account to undertake the regular periodic expenses as a resident, to operate a business in the country with a company account transferring capital, or to make the necessary investment for passive or non-profit residence, access and trust of local banks are essential to develop and exercise any activity in that country.
In the case of AndorraWhen choosing the Principality for your business or personal investments, complying with the requirements and the Know Your Customer (KYC) that these institutions apply is essential for your future banking relationship. In a country, moreover, where the financial and insurance sector represent approximately 20% of GDPSince the banking system is its core, this issue is even more important.
So, today we are going to discuss the operation of this sector in the country: banks, accounts and payments that can be made in the Principality.
The Andorran financial system comprises 5 banking groups, 1 specialized credit institution, 8 financial institutions for the management of investment organizations, 4 financial institutions for the management of wealth and 34 insurance companies, 18 of which are branches, of foreign insurance companies. authorized to operate in Andorra. The 5 banking groups are:
- Andbank: created as 2001 merger of two Andorran banks, Banc Agrícol and Banca Reig, and previously known as Andbanc, is a bank specialized in offering private banking services. Its origins date back to 1930 with the birth of the Forces Hidroeléctricas de Andorra (FHASA) and managed to be in 2010 the first Andorran bank with a bank record of the European Union, upon obtaining the license in Luxembourg and creating the company Andbank Luxembourg. It has been present in Spain since 2011. In 2016 it had 1,167 employees and almost 22 billion euros under management (internationally). Can get more information here.
- Morabanc: is currently a banking group owned by the Mora family. It is made up of a series of corporations dedicated to various activities, from insurance to wealth management, etc. that operate internationally also in Miami or Switzerland. Its main part is the bank, MoraBanc, SAU, with origins in 1958. It has also received numerous awards, especially regarding digitization and solvency. At the end of 2018, it had 331 workers, more than 7.5 billion client funds and a CET1 solvency ratio of 26%. Have more information here.
- Banc Sabadell d'Andorra: established in 2000 with the alliance of Banco Sabadell and a consortium of Andorran businessmen, the 51% of your property is from Banco Sabadell, which controls the bank for practical purposes. In 2017, it controlled some 1.6 billion euros in assets. Being the smallest bank in Andorra, Banc Sabadell d'Andorra offers a complete range of banking services: retail and corporate banking, private banking and brokerage services. You will find more information about it in this link.
- Crèdit Andorrà: is another financial group in the Principality of Andorra, founded in 1949. It focuses its activity on commercial banking, private banking and asset management on an international scale, in addition to insurance. It is currently owned by the Andorran banks the largest using the universal banking model to provide a wide range of services: retail, corporate banking and private banking, asset and wealth management, as well as financial and insurance advice. In 2018 it had more than 5 billion Andorran assets under management. More here.
- Vallbanc (formerly BPA): founded in 1957 as Banca Privada d'Andorra and transferred as Vallbanc as a result of conflict and case of GAP in 2015, is another institution specialized in private banking services JC Flowers & Co. from the United States acquired it in 2016 and now seeks to renew the image, reform and demonstrate transparency and clarity and manages around two billion euros in assets. In general, it offers national retail banking and international wealth management services. They can read more here.
Although in the past offshore banking was very important in the Andorran economy, since the international economic opening and the entry into force of the various information exchange treaties such as the automatic exchange of CRS data, the positions of money on the high seas have been reduced. So, existing foreign capital is subject to compliance with international anti-money laundering requirements, accrediting Andorra as a safe and solvent financial center.
This banking sector, which brings together the 80% of employees in the financial system, is characterized by the strong capitalization of the different entities and conservative and prudent management. These characteristics have allowed the solvency of the sector to stand at ratios above 20%, well above most of the surrounding financial markets.
Andorran Banking and the Andorran Financial Authority (AFA)
Andorran Banking is the Association of Andorran Banks and represents the interests of the Principality's banks, ensuring the prestige, development and competitiveness of the sector, both in Andorra and internationally (it has the power to deal with other banks, entities and foreign professional associations). Andorran Banking is also a member of the Andorran Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Services (CCIS), the Andorran Business Confederation (CEA) and the European Banking Federation (EBF).
The Andorran Financial Authority (AFA; in Catalan, Andorran Finance Authority), is the institution of the Principality of Andorra in charge of supervise Andorr's financial systema, supervising banks and insurers. It was founded in 1989 and known as Andorran National Institute of Finance (INAF) until 2018. Its objective is to guarantee the proper functioning, reputation, transparency and competitiveness of the system and reduce systemic risk, acting accordingly.
In addition to these functions and their derivatives, the AFA has others such as "collecting deposits and bonds established in application of current legislation and judicial decisions, and managing these funds observing the principle of prudence in an appropriate manner", that is, manage, among others, the famous "deposits and bonds" of non-profit residences and of people who request residence and self-employment immigration authorization, as you can read here.
Andorra and SEPA
The Single Zone of Payments in Euros (in English, Single Euro Payments Area, Know), is the initiative that allows individuals, companies and public bodies, make payments in euros, without using cash, from an account located anywhere in the area, through a single set of payment instruments and with the same conditions, efficiency and security with which they are carried out at the national level, and was born to alleviate the existence of a single market in the field of retail payments in the European Union.
SEPA acts through three payment instruments, which can be used for national and international payments in any of the countries that comprise it:
- SEPA credit transfers (punctual, massive payments and payroll payments)
- SEPA direct charges (periodic or specific direct debits)
- SEPA instant credit transfers
On the other hand they are 36 countries that are part of this single payment area:
- 28 member states of the European Union (whether or not they belong to the eurozone).
- 4 members of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).
- Andorra, Vatican City, Monaco and San Marino.
While Andorra became part of SEPA in March 2019 de iure (which would mean that any company or individual could send and receive payments from an Andorran bank to any account located in one of these 36 countries and vice versa), the reality is that de facto the technology is not yet fully implemented in Andorran banks.
This means that the Andorran banking sector, although very solvent compared to other countries of the European Union, is less competitive for international payments, due to high commissions and the non-acceptance and linking of some platforms and payment gateways. The best known and most desired in the country is PayPal, although there are many more.
Is there a solution to this? Well first of all say that nor is it usually an insoluble obstacle, but rather a kind of annoyance that hinders the way. Most international payments are made smoothly, but can be slow and have higher fees than those made between banks within SEPA. Anyway, an easy solution is open a foreign bank account.
Foreign accounts in companies or individuals in Andorra
Because Andorran banks are less competitive in international payments, the opening of a commercial bank account in Spain or France can be a solution quite interesting depending of course on the situation of the individual or legal entity in particular.
Spanish banks have been forced to undergo a restructuring and facing fierce competition has led to a reduction in fees, turning very competent in the field of payments. Thus, it is a good solution, always complying with the regulations and with a Spanish tax representative with a Spanish tax identification number for the company in Andorra.
For example, having an Andorran account of Banco Sabadell d'Andorra and another Spanish account of Banco Sabadell, payments and cash transfers between both accounts do not have commissions, so that a company or an individual can enter the Spanish bank account through SEPA and then transfer the cash to the Banco Sabadell d'Andorra account, thus avoiding commissions. In addition, cash can be withdrawn from the Banco Sabadell d'Andorra account at Spanish Banco Sabadell ATMs, which is a great added advantage.
Open a bank account
At first, anyone can open an account in Andorra: both individuals and companies, and whether they are residents or non-residents. Of course, for a while now, the regulations and legislation to be fulfilled by these entities (which was already tough, at least for non-residents) have been tightened due to the success of the Andorran Private Banking (BPA) in 2015.
Especially you have to comply with money laundering prevention legislation or money laundering, since it is the most strict, dangerous and sensitive. Furthermore, it is necessary to comply with the FATCA protocol and determine the origin of all the funds contributed, placing emphasis on document transactions of great nominal value.
In addition to this, it should also be noted that commercial banking is only a minority part of Andorran banking. Additional wealth management services such as investment funds, the possibility of purchasing certain assets and financial products and multi-currency accounts are part of the day-to-day and banking activity of the Principality.
Does Andorra have bank secrecy?
Although this is a fairly frequent myth among people who know little Andorra, no, Andorra has no bank secrecy. As we counted in our article on the transformation of the Principality, Andorra was removed from the OECD black list of tax havens in 2011 and from the gray list in 2012. In 2016 it signed the agreement with the EU of automatic exchange of tax information and the following year, in 2017, definitively eliminated bank secrecy.
In fact, not only does it no longer exist but since July 2018 it is a serious punishable crime, with all the consequences that it entails for the consenting banks. further tax crime is typified, a new money laundering and terrorist financing law was enacted, and a new insurance law, among other tax and financial regulations. All of these reforms led Andorra to be completely removed from the European Union's gray list of tax havens in 2018.
What are the advantages of a bank account in Andorra?
After saying that the fees charged by Andorran banks are high, surely more than one will wonder: then what is the advantage of Andorra's banking? Obviously, a resident has to deal with them because they are the banks in their country, but what about a non-resident? So let's proceed to list the best advantages that can be highlighted of the Andorran banking:
- They allow you to save. With good tax planning, you can lower the tax burden on savings and even on income. Let's also remember that it is perfectly legal to have a checking account in any other country, so it is a really interesting advantage because with Spanish banks you will not have this option.
- They are very safe. As we have already said, Andorran banking is one of the safest in Europe. In addition, you have part of your money insured up to a maximum amount of 100,000 euros, be they securities or deposits. You will be much safer than in the countries around you.
- You can open a bank account in Andorra online. With the technologies of this century, you have the opportunity to open your own account in Andorra from the Internet without the need to leave your home. Taking into account the security that these banks have, you will also do it with all the tranquility of the world. Of course, they are very strict and demanding with the documentation and the KYC, with which it is better to plan it.
- You have access to the assets of banks. As with the Spanish companies, you will be able to buy the assets that Andorran banks have. Flats, houses, apartments, chalets, bonds, etc.
Finally, the minimum documentation necessary to open a bank account in Andorra should be made clear, although it depends on each particular case, including the legal type of the owner, amounts of the transactions, type of residence and assets to be maintained, etc. As minimum, this is the documentation you need:
- ID, driving license or passport: It is necessary that it is up-to-date and they may ask you for a receipt with your information.
- Tax and bank statements: You will be asked for bank statements and the tax declaration of your place of residence.
- Documentation of the origin of the money: Andorran banks flee money laundering at all costs, so you must prove that the money you have is legal.
In conclusion: the Andorran banking system is quite particularr. After a long period with the country closed, it seeks to open itself trying to get out of the gloom of historical isolation, in a process that is progressing firmly. This is why it is not yet adapted to all the news in the sector, although there are very feasible solutions to alleviate this matter.
In any case, we end by recommending and remembering that for any management of such a magnitude it is necessary to have the knowledge and professional treatment of experts in the topics. At Andorra Insiders we collaborate with great lawyers, economists and prosecutors, as well as real estate agents and numerous other agents.
In addition, we know the country first hand, with which we can advise you on whatever is necessary, depending on your case. Either for reside in the country or for start a company, you can count on us. Contact here and tell us your case, or read here a part of the services what we offer.