Swedbank is a large Swedish bank with a presence in Estonia. It is one of the few that works with e-Residents although not as readily as LHV. In this article, I review it and share my own experience.
Review and my experience
As soon as I decided to register a business in Estonia, I knew that I would open an account with Swedbank. In part, because I was already familiar with the bank and its excellent performance in recent ECB stress tests. In part, because it is the largest bank in Estonia and as such, the best placed to offer the services I required.
Fast forward a few months and I was in Tallinn, ready to open an account for my newly formed Estonian company.
Unlike the LHV account opening which my registered agent had arranged, I did not need to arrange anything in advance with Swedbank. I simply walked into a branch with my passport and walked out an hour later with my account fully activated. It is important to note that I did not receive my debit card, however, and had to wait for it to arrive in the mail (took a week).
The plan I was put on included free transactions for an entire year, including SEPA transfers. Starting with the second year, there would be a small monthly fee to pay. This is competitive with the offering at the other banks as unfortunately, free banking is not the norm in Estonia.
So far, I have had a mixed experience with Swedbank. On the one hand, customer service is great and so is the product itself. The website is well-designed and everything works fine. I definitely prefer it over that of LHV and SEB. On the other hand, some features were clearly not designed with e-Residency in mind and have proven to be friction points. For example, it is impossible to remotely change the spending limit on the debit card (only possible for those with resident cards or mobile-ID). One has to visit a branch to do so which is fairly inconvenient when not living anywhere near Estonia. I have also experienced issues with Smart-ID although they have now been resolved.
It is also still not possible to open an account remotely (2019), a visit to the bank is required. With that said, in most cases, an appointment is not required. Simply bring along your passport, e-Resident card and any relevant supporting documentation for your business to a branch during normal working hours. There is no minimum opening deposit nor any monthly fee (for the first year). As stated above, you will need to wait for your debit card to be delivered in the mail (as far as I know, none of the banks in Estonia issue cards on the spot). While all the Estonian banks require proof of ties to Estonia, Swedbank is especially insistent about this and will very likely decline to open an account if you have none (or only weak ones).
Swedbank, like the other Estonian banks, has been closing a large number of business bank accounts. The vast majority of these accounts were owned by Estonian companies with non-resident board members and shareholders. If your Estonian company has non-resident board members and shareholders, I strongly recommend opening a backup account with a foreign bank or a financial services company (such as TransferWise) as there is a high risk that your Swedbank account will be closed. The scale of the problem is such that it is currently estimated that as many as 75% of e-Resident accounts have been closed by Swedbank early 2018.
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