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SOVEREIGN MAN

Opening a renminbi savings account in the US

January 12, 2011
Santiago, Chile

In its latest step to make the renminbi a competing global reserve currency, China’s predominantly state-owned Bank of China will now let individuals open renminbi savings accounts… in the United States.

Effective immediately, BOC’s US individual customers can now open a renminbi denominated savings account with a $500 equivalent minimum balance. The bank also offers certificates of deposit in 6-month and 1-year terms with a minimum of $1,000 equivalent.

The account opening procedures are simple– there is an application form, a W-9 tax form, and a signature card.  Applicants are also required to provide a government-issued ID and one other form of identification such as a credit card, employee ID card, insurance card, etc. You do have to show up in person.

Businesses can also open renminbi accounts with a $5,000 equivalent minimum and requisite entity paperwork like Articles of Organization, etc.

At this time, renminbi cash cannot be withdrawn from the account, though I would expect this to change eventually. The bank does provide currency exchange services between dollars and renminbi at its Chinatown branch in New York; current limits are up to $4,000 per day, and $20,000 per year.

China doesn’t do anything overnight, and I believe the government is executing a long-term plan to make Shanghai the world’s leading financial center… and as a part of that plan, for the renminbi (or some derivative) to become a fully-convertible competing global reserve currency.

We’re already seeing significant signs of this– many sovereign nations are holding renminbi in reserve instead of just dollars, and Chinese cross border settlement is now frequently being transacted in renminbi instead of dollars because of new clearing and settlement platforms that have been established in Hong Kong.

Just last week I wrote about a new renminbi denominated gold contract that will trade in Hong Kong, as well as the recent World Bank renminbi bond issuance.

Bank of China’s move in the United States is just the latest step in this long-term process to loosen exchange controls and achieve full convertibility of the renminbi, and I think we’ll see even more steps like this in the coming months and years.

More specifically, I imagine that a similar exchange platform will be unveiled in Europe for euro and pound conversion into renminbi; that further renminbi-denominated contracts in Asian staple commodities like rice will hit the Hong Kong exchange; and that many of these contracts will move beyond Hong Kong to other exchanges.

Singapore is the most likely candidate to absorb renminbi contracts; the Singapore exchange (SGX) already operates global depository share trading of mainland Chinese companies, and it always does its best to stay on the cutting edge of finance.

After Singapore, I think we’ll see renminbi contracts spreading across the region into places like Australia (which has strong economic ties to China) and Thailand (an agricultural commodities powerhouse).

Several years from now, the entire world will know that the baton has been passed on the day that the US Treasury Department holds a bond auction denominated in renminbi, or the day when a bank wire transfer from Bangkok to Boston passes through a corresponding bank in Shanghai.

About the author: Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, permanent traveler, free man, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter and crash course is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • j.j.

    sweet, dude!

    when it comes to the information game, you are the ace up our sleeve

    these favors will be repaid

    j.j. from pittsburgh

  • s.h.

    Simon,

    As always, thanks for the heads-up and your opinions.

    Are there any advantages to opening such an account immediately? Would it be prudent to do so as a hedge against the USD (i.e. to “park” some money there now for the future)? Or, should we sit back and watch things unfold? In other words, are there any advantages in acting now instead of waiting?

    Your opinions are always appreciated.

    Thank you.

  • jack

    Chile Paradise

  • Jkxyz

    can have yuan denominated at Everbank as well, or buy WisdomTree Dreyfus Chinese Yuan Fd (CYB)

    • D

      How do you do that?

    • guest

      everbank is poorly rated I just read.

  • Curtis

    Simon,

    Thank you for this information. Found your site recently and have been educating myself will your past post. Keep up the good work!

    Curtis

  • Jmmfulk

    What about the fact that China is a communist country? If U.S. citizens put dollars into a Chinese bank and the U.S. defaults on its debt to China, is it possible that China might confiscate all U.S. citizens bank accounts as payment for U.S. debt?

    • http://wealthvault.net Tony Russo

      China is a successful country. China is not a communist country any more than the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) is a democracy. Just because the mass media put the word “communist” in front of China every time they mention China, does NOT make China communist.

      China practices very successful capitalism so it’s hard to describe them as following the communist ideal on an economic and social basis.

      • Steve

        I’m sorry, you are naive. China is an oppressive dictatorship that thrives on slave labor.
        All anyone needs to know about China is that they censor the internet. Freedom of Speech is the FIRST amendment for a reason.
        Just because they have opened up their economy a bit, doesn’t excuse the fact that it is a command and control, closed society.
        Buying stuff from China, doing business with China, you are supporting evil.

      • Peter leg

        I’ve lived in China for many years now and there is nothing wrong with the place. I can see why the rest of the world doesn’t like China this place is really humming along. I’m dreading leaving here cause there are not too many places that can beat living here.

      • Richard29

        Where do you live? What do you do for a living? Richard C. Smith Cleveland Ohio

    • Peter leg

      I like the Bank of China and I like renminbi. Before I used to change Renminbi to HK dollars and keep HK dollars, now i keep everything is in renminbi in China. If you ever get to HK be wary of the banks there I got stung for over $60,000 because an insurance saving plan turned out to be a big scam from Hang Seng Bank. Stick to the Bank of China, China is the next super power

    • Dboy

      “What about the fact that China is a communist country?”

      Let me guess…you think that America is a democracy? HEH Do you think that’s air you are breathing now? Hmm –The Matrix

    • Icebearandthefrog

      It can be helpful if you are a US citizen to have established permanent residency in a country outside the US.
      This could spare you from an order from the Beijing government to confiscate accounts. They have been unable to collect the accounts of 23 million Taiwan citizens, and may be reluctant to piss off a few million Chinese Americans.

    • Chrisg

      these accounts are secured by the FDIC…if that is important to you.

  • Dobner

    Thanks Simon as always. I am interested to know what would be the benefits of opening a renminbi account in the US?

    • Dboy

      An RMB account is a way to hedge against a falling dollar in a world where US dollars are dropped from helicopters. It’s a way to protect yourself against the actions of the US government, who are trying to steal your wealth. It’s much easier to debase a currency than to raise taxes.

  • Henry

    This is one step further in the decline of the US. This is sad for us. I wonder what those idiots economists that were happy seeing the massive transference of our manufacturing to Asian countries are saying now.

    • Dboy

      So far it really isn’t “decline”, it’s power-sharing…but that will change as things progress. The US squandered its leadership role, and has been extremely overbearing on the world stage. The US murdered millions of farmers in southeast asia, it kept its fat corporate thumb on South America for a very long time, it conquered, destroyed, and occupied the Philippines.,the list is endless. It’s time for the US the get some accountability in the world.

      • Icebearandthefrog

        Settle down there Mr Revisionist Historian. Following the decline of the British Empire, the accepted form of colonialism is economic and corporate with public owned corporations pressuring government, policy, and law. To say that there was no mutual benefit is to say that the new colonies would all be better off under feudal, rule, or nomadic tribal traditions, with disparate belief systems and incompatible world views. If the people of the world are better off this way than being participants in the global system that is the reality today, then please tell me how or or why you think so. The history of human kind has always been a history of peoples or groups supplanting, dominating, or edging out other groups. If this makes you feel guilty that’s too bad. The Philippines probably benefited far more than they lost by going from a Spanish colony to a US economic colony. It’s only too bad that this nation is not our 51st State. That would change the balance in this soon very unbalanced part of the world.

  • http://www.subways.net Striptees

    1. What is the difference between opening a BOC account in renminbi vs opening a FOREX account and buying renminbi?

    • Dboy

      Forex spot market trading (which is what fx-specific trading accounts usually are) are leveraged. An account with BOC is completely unleveraged.

      • Striptees

        So then a FOrex account MUST be leveraged? I’ve been considering storing my USD in Canadian dollars or renminbi, but I wanted something safe and lisquid.

      • Dboy

        I wouldn’t say HAS to be, but usually that’s what you do. The spot forex accounts that I have seen allow you to adjust the leverage in various ways (such as 100:1). I trade FX futures (along with all futures, stocks,etfs). Full time trader, location independent.

        For “safe and liquid” I recommend checking out HSBC. Best case is to open an account with them at a non-US branch office. You can open the account denominated in non-US currencies. Also keep in mind that electronic transfers may lead to discovery of the account by US, using what they call “traffic analysis” in the intel world.

  • Jayseave

    Simon Black: What would it take to put a “Print” box at the top of your column, so it can be printed without the comments. If your opinion is worth something, present it so it can be readily printed and read later, as I often do -and saved for future reference. Everything is not just transient, in and out, random, and having no substance, except as some sort of weird social capital, i.e., trading in other people’s ideas.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1246622811 Mark Fox

      Jayseave, you can do that – just type “readability” into your search window and you’ll see what I mean. Choose the “Arc 90″ link. I use it every time I read something.

  • Jimwrkdiver

    OK, if you have to appear personally, where’s their branch?

    • http://twitter.com/Just1GOLDEN Justin Golden

      49th and Madison in NYC

    • Rkp56

      Go to their web site, and click on English in the upper right corner and then go to About Us and you click on their branches selection that fits…. Americas, etc…

    • Chrisg

      madison avenue and 47th

  • macrotrader

    I do like your insight into the global citizeny especially in a hot money emerging market like Chile but as an astute macro-trader you do have to look at the whole picture. Inflationists and dollar bears will certainly jump all over this story. But with a certain trepidation you do have to look at the gloabl picture. China and the other hot money emerging markets especially. There will be a hard landing for China in the next few years with 5-6% growth rate most likely in 2011, record $199 billion in to have 2.85 trillion in reserves in 4q 2010, reported inflation at 5% and “real” unreported at 10% and a need to reign in the lending due to the out of control property bubble and a real need to float their currency. Not just paltry .25 interest rate hikes. Credit expansion in China is massive, yet under-reported as noted in the Financial Times article “China’s monetary tightening will be felt around the globe”. China is already at a 2 year inflation high and growing so the market dictated higher rates which encourage more hot money coming into China. So there will be more capital controls coming. Can China restrict lending? Rising inflation is the outcome. China doesn’t want to float it’s currency so it is using this action to deflect criticism of its trade policies and its foreign exchange reserves. Here is some simple math: China would need to open up 10 million accounts in the US, each with the absolute maximum of $20,000 in Yuan holdings, just to reach $200 billion. How likely is that? If it did happen, China would have another $200 billion in US dollar reserves to deal with! Is that what China wants?. great analysis link on China and http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2011/01/hunting-elephants-with-pea-shooters.html

    I discovered you on the awesome inflationist traderblog Zerohedge and like what you have to say but also want your readers to see other insights on the dollar and how 2011 could be a tough year to navigate the emerging markets landscape with currency devaluation and rapidly rising inflation of hot money into these markets and most likely a major restructure in Europe coming well who knows…
    Hopefully the riots in Chile which turned deadly due to the rise in gas might be an isolated occurrence there!!
    http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2011/0112/Chile-protests-turn-deadly-as-Latin-America-buckles-under-rising-energy-prices

    • theYiffer

      Thanks for the post Macrotrader. Right now, China has been within it’s own economic bubble. Their “booming” economy has been built on sand or better yet subsidized by the Chinese state. Chi-coms have to continue to manipulate and dump more money into their economy to maintain anything close to double-digit growth. That means more government paid-for ghost-towns, highways, etc. If China can’t maintain that growth, those in power will either face a revolt and collapse or rev up nationalist sentiment and start a war. (Think Japan or US) Due to the economic collapse of Europe and America’s down-ward economic slide (thanks to Obama and his minions) the Chi-coms have had to struggle to keep their economy growing. As far as the Yaun is concerned, it’s just another fragile fiat currency competing with the USD. On top of that, I would believe it to be too risky to open up an account at a bank own and controlled by any government let alone one controlled by Communists.

      I also appreciate the link to the article on Chile. Unlike Mr. Black’s depiction, Chile is still a very volatile place. Like most countries in Latin and South America, it looks like Chile still suffers from hard leftward swings, which should be seen as pretty sad in or day and age. But then again collectivism still continues to infect the rest of the world with very little resistance (including the good ol’ U.S. of A.), so I digress.

  • The G-Man

    What about investing in Iraq?

  • Vertizp

    I tried thus just this week. I went to the box in new York chinatown. I was told I could only open a us dollar account. Also that any withdraws could only be made in us dollars. So no this cannot be done.

  • No2foreclosures

    “Several years from now, the entire world will know that the baton has been passed on the day that the US Treasury Department holds a bond auction denominated in renminbi. . . .”

    Ain’t never going to happen until WW3/4 occurs first.

  • Rkp

    How about a US citizen opening an account in Vancouver, since there is no branch near Seattle?

  • TC

    I’d like to know if China is doing this in other countries around the world!

  • http://twitter.com/limitedrepublic President

    Don’t bother e-mailing their customer service. No response. The Renminbi will rise in value. But it too is a fiat currency and remember China is still a fairly authoritarian country. At least officially. I do realize there is a good deal of de facto freedom in China. Likewise, I know America is moving more toward de facto fascism. Does it balance out? No, America still has the upper hand for now.

  • Chrisg

    well, I opened an account with the BoC Madison Avenue branch. I deposited $20,000 USD. After waiting nearly two weeks for them to “clear” the certified BANK check I gave them from Chase, they finally opened the account. I had to wait another week plus to get them to convert to CNY. Here’s what you should be aware of…

    You must keep $500 in USD.

    I just called today (Feb 14) and they told me the conversion to CNY was done on Feb 4. However, I was in the branch at the end of last week (Feb 7-11) to inquire why my account hadn’t been coverted to RNB yet and they told me it was NOT done yet. Sounds strange.

    I called them today, because I received a conversion notice this weekend and found out that the rate they gave me was less than the published rate. They told me that they use an “internal rate” and that it is different from the published rate. I asked if I could track that internal rate on a daily basis. They advised that the only way I can do this is to call the bank and ask a rep each day.

    When I was there, the bankers were overwhelmed with applications.

    Prepare to wait.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002915918673 Guyute Icculus

    I opened my account by mail with notarized copies of my passport and signature cards. Once the money clears you can convert the USD account to a RMB denominate account. I have had an account since 2010 and the account is FDIC insured. You can now deposit RMB as well. I haven’t tried to withdrawal any money yet. I could not access the account when I was in China but, they did let me convert USD to RMB in China since I had an account. You have to wait until your check clears, then you can access your account online, call Xinkai Mao at the Madison Avenue Branch.If you cop an attitude they will not help you.

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