This is how startups open their first bank account

Juan Andrade
Juan Andrade
3 min read

How startups open their first bank account

TL;DR — Put as little effort as possible into picking your first corporate bank because if things go well, you’ll quickly outgrow them.

Picking your startup’s first bank account is an exciting moment in every startup’s life. You can’t take investment, collect revenue or pay yourself without it. Despite that being true, we see founders wasting time setting up their first bank account so we thought we’d help out.

We’ve collected 1000s of quotes, over 300hrs of conversations with founders all over the world to learn how they opened their first corporate bank account. Here’s what we’ve learned

c/o Christina @ wocintechchat.com

Get advice from founder friends

Many founders are with their current bank because it was the most popular answer that their friends gave them. There really aren’t that many banks that work with startups so this is a good starting point.

However, if you haven’t mapped out what you need from your bank, you can find yourself outgrowing that bank sooner than you need to or adding additional products to your finance stack sooner than expected.

Speak to your personal bank

Another popular route is to speak to your own bank. The bank they’ve been with since they were old enough to spend money. Some banks incentivize this by fast-tracking your application if you already have an account with them.

This is risky— corporate accounts are bloated products that can make simple tasks a chore. It’s important to consider your options based on needs, not simplicity.

Open an account with every bank, keep the one that opens your account first

This is surprisingly effective. Your banking needs early on are so straightforward that the bank you pick isn’t that important*.* And you’ll definitely open an account quickly this way.

This is probably the most intensive way to open your first corporate bank as each bank will have different requirements and workflows. Be prepared!

All these methods are great, but they are prone to error. Here’s how we recommend early-stage companies open their first corporate bank.

So how should you open your startup’s first bank account?

Like every decision, good planning will improve the end result. A good decision in this scenario means you don’t have to switch or add other financial tools to run your business — things that can distract you early on.

1. Map out your inflows and outflows

Ask yourself, how many currencies will I receive funds in? Can I pay all my vendors in the same currency? Do my vendors need to be paid via card or bank transfer? Answers vary wildly by industry and geography

2. Understand if you’re in a restricted industry

Banks don’t like working with companies in certain industries. This can be because it is a new industry or one that is associated with fraud. The worst thing you can do is take it personally, instead, understand this upfront to increase your chances of finding the right bank.

3. Check account opening timelines

There are more banks these days that can open accounts on the same day. Make sure you understand this as it tends to influence the decision quite heavily in the early days.

4. Watch out for avoidable fees

Banks make money whether you’re using your account or not. Remember this. Early-stage companies are appealing because of their basic needs and (usually) the large amounts of cash they need to keep.

If you’re in your first year in business, you should aim to pay zero for basic banking. Banks make money just by holding your money, remember!

To wrap up

Picking the right bank account for your startup means you can go longer without having to (re-)optimise your finance stack, removing early distractions. Following this advice means you can spend more time building something people want.

Just get ready to do it all over again when you start growing!

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