Standard Bank

An independent review by our team of experts.

Review summary

Standard Bank

The Standard Bank of South Africa Limited is one of South Africa's largest financial services groups, operating in 20 countries across Africa and other key markets around the world.

The bank was formed in 1962 as a South African subsidiary of the British overseas bank Standard Bank, under the name The Standard Bank of South Africa.

The bank's origins can be traced to 1862, when a group of businessmen led by the prominent right-wing South African politician John Paterson formed a bank in London, initially under the name Standard Bank of British South Africa.

The bank started operations in 1863 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and soon after opening it merged with several other banks including the Commercial Bank of Port Elizabeth, the Colesberg Bank, the British Kaffrarian Bank and the Fauresmith Bank.

Standard Bank is the largest African banking group by assets.  It is publically listed and 20.1% owned by the largest bank in the world, Commercial Bank of China.

Overview

Offshore banking can benefit expats in that no matter where an expat works, their money can be safe in a well-regulated jurisdiction. Equally, expats’ wealth can be kept in a tax efficient environment so that, as a non-resident in their home country, they are not unfairly taxed.

Multi-currency banking is normally available, including for cards.  Private banking offshore is surprisingly accessible for expats, with many benefits over and above standard current accounts in your home or work jurisdiction. 

Standard Bank’s international bank account enables people who live or work abroad to manage their finances in a central location.

The account is based in the Isle of Man, generally considered a safe and stable offshore jurisdiction regulated by the Isle of Man Financial Services Authority.

The account provides benefits such as payments and transfers in multiple currencies, global online banking and withdrawals, and security in a Moody’s Aa1 jurisdiction. 

The Isle of Man also has a Depositors’ Compensation Scheme up to £48,000.

Standard Bank’s core account offering is called the Optimal Account, and has been designed to support everyday transactional banking requirements.

A minimum deposit of £4,000 is required to open an account.  Exchange rates are clearly demarked before you accept or decline. They incur a commission of 2.75%.

The account’s Visa card will incur charges on transactions amounting to 1.75% (minimum £2.00 | US$3.00 | €3.00 | AU$3.50 as applicable).  A maximum amount of £2,000 (£600 in cash) can be withdrawn within any 24 hour period.

Other charges can be fairly high.  For instance, Sterling or non-Sterling electronic transfers overseas costs £40 or £20 online.

In contrast to some competitor accounts, Standard Bank charges £60 per quarter if your balance falls below the £4,000 minimum.

The Platinum Optimum account is exclusively available to Standard Bank Group Private Banking clients, and provides a number of extra features.

Standard Bank provides a number of offshore savings accounts as well.

The Offshore Moneymarket Call Account – an instant access savings account.

The Offshore Reserve Account – an interest bearing account that offers you access to your money 4 times a year.

The Fixed Term Deposit Account – the account offers a guaranteed fixed rate of interest for agreed periods up to one year.

Notice Account – interest bearing accounts that offer you access to your money after 36, 96, 196 and 396 days notice, depending on option selected. 

Standard Bank provides a range of other services – offering investment soutions, structured products (beware of these!), lending and UK mortgage solutions. 

The pros

  • Easy to open
  • Good online banking facilities
  • Size
  • Good for smaller clients

The cons

  • Lacks sophistication for larger clients
FAQs
What are the main features of Standard Bank's Optimum account for expats?

The Optimum Account is designed to support your everyday transactional banking requirements, so you can manage your finances across borders, make payments and receive money from around the world.

Account / Overview Available in GBP | USD | EUR | AUD

Minimum balance £4,000 | US$6,000 | €6,000 | AU$6,000 (as applicable)

• Deposit your salary or savings from multiple sources

• Optional Visa debit card (fees and charges apply)

• No account maintenance fee if a minimum balance is maintained *

• Supports standing orders on all currency accounts and direct debits for accounts denominated in Sterling

• Unlimited deposits and withdrawals

• Access to a range of international banking services, including savings accounts and foreign exchange Digital Internet Banking

• Make international payments, view and download account activity

• Transfer funds between accounts with us

• Secure messaging Mobile Banking

• Access and manage your accounts on the go using your mobile device

• View account activity and transfer funds between accounts with us

• Link your accounts within the Standard Bank Group

*Optimum Account Maintenance charge:

If the average credit balance maintained over any quarterly interest period amounts to less than the minimum balance of £4,000 I US$6,000 I €6,000 I AU$6,000, the account maintenance fee charged per quarter is £60.00 I US$90.00 I €90.00 I AU$90.00.

Does Standard Bank offer expats any borrowing/lending facilities?

Currently there are three lending options available to expats from Standard Bank: -

1) UK property loan

A loan may be provided to persons who are normally resident outside the United Kingdom to assist with the acquisition of a property or for equity release.

Standard Bank will review each client’s assets, liabilities and income statement and may request additional documentation in support of the information provided.

Standard Bank will also review the existing tenancy agreement in cases where the property is already tenanted.

Please note,Standard Bank does not provide owner occupied mortgage facilities, Standard Bank does provide short term interest only facilities for non- owner occupied properties.

Minimum facility:

£200,000

Term:

3 - 5 years

Arangement

1.5% of facility amount (or 0.5% on any subsequent renewal)

Interest rate

3 year loan: 1 Month LIBOR + 3.65% (per annum)

5 year loan: 1 Month LIBOR + 3.85% (per annum)

Loan to value

Maximum 65% of the purchase price or a professional valuation of the property, whichever is lower

Debit interest

Charged quarterly in arrears

Repayment terms

Interest only

Cash Collateral

A cash deposit equal to six months debit interest is to be held on account with Standard Bank Isle of Man at all times

Property rental

The property must be tenanted and the rental income mandated to the Borrowers account at Standard Bank

2) Cash backed loan

Term

1-5 years, subject to annual review

Minimum amount

GBP100,000 or currency equivalent

Loan to value

100% for same currency security and loan. Maximum 80% for cross currency facility

Interest rate and arrangement fees

Dependent on the loan balance

3) Cash bank guarantee

Subject to approval, Standard Bank Isle of Man may offer Guarantees and Clean Letter of Credit facilities secured by cash held on deposit with the Bank.

Minimum amount

GBP100,000 or currency equivalent

Term

Maximum 12 months; with the ability to renew annually thereafter, subject to Standard Bank approval on each occasion

Guarantee value

100% of cash deposit amount for same currency security and guarantee. Maximum 80% of deposit amount for cross currency security and guarantee.

Arrangement fee

Dependent on the guarantee amount.

Customer reviews
Happy with my account and its features

I've got a fairly flexible and cheak banking solution from Standard Bank.

I'm happy with the flexibility, and the options I've got if I want to save or borrow as well.

Over all, I think Standard Bank's accounts and services are better than some like headliners HSBC.

Expert verdict
Expert Assessment of Standard Bank

We think Standard Bank is an excellent bank account for retail (under £50,000) and emerging affluent clients (under £100,000).  It has decent IT infrastructure, and caters for some interesting niche markets.

There are very likely better ways to invest your money however, than via a bank - international or otherwise!

“Thank you AES International for helping me and my family with your low cost no-nonsense approach. It is refreshing!”

Kristian Petersson

“With this sort of service you also expect to be paying very high fees, but it’s just not the case. I would definitely recommend AES.”

Jake van den Dries

“In the short time that I’ve been using AES I’ve made nearly ten thousand pounds and couldn’t be happier!”

Jackie Pym

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