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  • 作家相片尚澄法律小編

Interview from AMCHAM TAIWAN《在台外籍人士的銀行惡夢Foreign Residents’Banking Woes》

編按:此為轉載文,本所蔡昆洲主持律師接受自由記者James Baron採訪,原文刊登於 AMCHAM TAIWAN

台灣的銀行體系強調「自律規範」,導致業者提供服務給外籍人士時,往往裹足不前。


姓名學問大,這點到台灣的銀行辦事就知道,尤其你又是外國人的話。對長年居住在台灣的加拿大人潘龍泉(Anthony van Dyck)來說,原本只是例行的手續,卻因為他的名字太冗長而遲遲辦不成。


「我去同一家銀行快30年了,時間比每個行員在那裡的資歷還久,可是每年至少會有兩次碰到問題。」身為台灣加拿大商會理事的范達克說:「我的全名是John Anthony Christian van Dyck,很長。我的永久居留證用的是這個名字,所以銀行要求正式文件也要這樣。問題是,他們的電腦系統沒辦法打進這麼多字。」


外籍人士對台灣銀行業者的抱怨,很多都跟姓名有關。英國人安迪在台灣當老師已經十幾年,還記得有次到合作金庫接受海外匯款,卻成了一場「官僚夢魘」。


「我媽媽匯款時用的是英文名字寫法,先是名字,然後中名,最後是姓氏。」他說:「結果遭到銀行退匯,說名字不吻合。那時還沒有網路銀行,她只好大費周章再回到她的銀行,照中文書寫順序先寫姓氏,再匯款一次。」

經過一番討論後,合作金庫的經理讓安迪把英文名字書寫方式加入戶頭紀錄,另外還有他的中文名字。但沒過多久,又發生退匯情況,這次原因是姓名欄沒有寫中名。「我跟銀行說中名沒有必要,就連機票也用不到中名,但他們堅持名字要百分之百吻合。」他說:「於是我問能不能再加一個姓名選項,他們說只能有兩個別名。」


除了官僚作風令人洩氣之外,外籍人士取得金融產品與服務的管道也常常受限。台灣許多銀行業者核發信用卡給外籍人士時,還是經常會要求對方要有本地擔保人。少數幾家銀行願意通融,也是申請人極力爭取的結果。奇怪的是,台灣擔保人很少需要信用審查,甚至連就業經歷也不必。


台灣金管會銀行局副局長童政彰說,這樣的做法沒有法律依據。他指出,銀行授信時應該遵守5P原則,也就是借款戶(Person)、資金用途(Purpose)、還款來源(Payment)、債權保障(Protection;借款人資產對銀行有否保障)、授信展望(Perspective;借款人未來資源的前景)。


「不管是外國人還是本地人,銀行都應該奉行這個原則。」童說:「根據我們的普惠金融政策,銀行不得有排除外國人的規定。」但他坦誠:「台灣總共有3,400多家銀行分行散佈各地,可能出現不合標準的做法。」

童政彰特別指出,金管會在2月9日發布的新聞稿重申,該會承諾持續推動友善外國人的金融環境;對此,金管會主委黃天牧要求更多銀行分行提供第一線雙語服務,他自己更親自視察。


「他每年會隨機選定一、兩家銀行,在國家發展委員會主委的陪同下視察分行。」童說:「他們去年視察遠東商銀和台灣銀行,希望瞭解銀行實務是否符合我們的期望。」


根據金管會數據,目前提供雙語服務的分行共827家,幾乎是2020年12月31日當時數目的五倍,值得正面看待。然而,新聞稿宣布的其他措施仍舊定義模糊,有些措施要求「提升」服務,卻缺乏具體指示。

新聞稿亦指出,金管會配合政府就業金卡政策訂定相關法規,使「外國金融專業人才」來台享有租稅減免與其他優惠。


然而,這些措施只裨益少數人,截至去年底不到6,000人受惠,其中多數人只在台停留1到3年。在台居住幾十年的外籍人士不乏有成功創業家與高薪族,卻不適用類似優惠,很多人反而得不到每個台灣人都有的基本金融服務。


「台灣的銀行有點歧視外國人。」自1994年搬遷來台、自行開業的英國人德瑞克說。他舉例:「我到銀行開商業帳戶時,竟然需要從國外匯款進來。」

就德瑞克所知,他是台灣前幾個不必擔保人就申請到房貸的外國人。第一次申請時,他直接被銀行拒絕,但他當時在跨國金融機構工作的薪資戶頭就在這裡,已經跟這家銀行往來好幾年。「他們不問問題,也不討論有沒有其他選項,明明我的薪水付房貸綽綽有餘。」


接下來2、3年,德瑞克接洽了14家本地與國際銀行,得到的答覆都一樣。後來聽說有家國際銀行的分行可能願意通融外國人,他決定再試一次。

「我準備得很充分,用PowerPoint簡報我的淨資產與所得等等。」他說:「結果還是被小咖行員拒絕,但這次我堅持要找經理。跟他簡報之後,他終於同意在沒有本地擔保人的情況核發房貸,但只願意貸五成。」

德瑞克說,許多外籍人士都得不到這樣的資源,而且是他「把事情鬧大、堅持到讓人討厭」的結果,大多數人碰到類似的障礙,乾脆選擇放棄。


會出現這種情況,也是因為銀行業者不肯照規定來。金管會銀行局副局長童政彰說,針對在台購置房地產的外國人士,台灣的相關法規秉持互惠原則,因此只要申請人符合5P原則,申請房貸不應該有困難。


企業主有時也會處處受限。儘管中華民國銀行商業同業公會全國聯合會已修訂外籍人士使用網路銀行服務的相關法規,但對許多人還是申請不易。根據法規,企業帳戶必須設立在最接近企業註冊住址的分行,但這樣的堅持有時讓人氣結。

「我是在台灣當老闆的外國人,但申請網銀服務至少就花了半年時間。」范達克說:「銀行說這是洗錢防制的考量。我用這家銀行已經27年,他們真以為我在放長線釣大魚,現在終於要出手了嗎?台灣人只要有18歲,就能立刻申請到網路銀行。」


製藥公司主管沙依蓮(Elaine Salt)也有類似經驗。「我在安泰銀行有多年儲蓄,兒子的戶頭也在那裡。我只是要轉帳而已,他們卻不肯給我網路銀行。」她說:「他們說外國人不符資格,但我在富邦銀行和匯豐銀行都有網路銀行,所以安泰只是在找藉口。」

沙依蓮在富邦銀行屬於高資產客戶,但在兩年前也碰過壁。她希望享有LINE點數的3%刷卡回饋,因此申請JCB聯名卡。

「我以前習慣累積國泰航空里程,但疫情時間不會搭機出國,不再需要飛航卡。」她說:「誇張的是,我在這家銀行已經有兩張信用卡。他們知道我的薪資,知道我有房子,也知道我會匯學費給國外讀書的兒子,所以很清楚我有多少流動資金。」

儘管如此,她的理財專員說,因為她沒有台灣身分證,所以需要擔保人,甚至一度建議她請兒子代她簽名,但明明「兒子還是我在養」。憤憤不平之下,沙依蓮揚言關閉戶頭,當天下午最後接到信用卡核准通過的電話。


過去兩年,台灣陸續出現連線商業銀行(Line Bank)、樂天銀行、將來銀行等3家純網銀,但情況尚不見改善。

「我們起初對網銀寄予厚望,但到現在還看不出成績。」服務於專精金融科技的尚澄法律事務所、擔任主持律師的蔡昆洲說:「業者現在只是打生存戰,因為障礙太多了。」障礙包括洗錢防制法規,以及必須親自辦理部分手續。

他指出,也不宜冀望國外主要金融科技公司短期會進軍台灣市場。他說,總公司位在倫敦的純網銀公司Wise與Revolut曾經接洽尚澄,有意參與金管會的金融監管沙盒。


「他們評估後的結論是,申請過程太花時間,要半年到一年,沙盒實驗又要進行一年。」他說:「通過後,還要預備一年時間申請金融執照。對金融科技公司來說,3年等於是一輩子。」

蔡昆洲說,洗錢固然是合理的顧慮,但真正的問題似乎出在金管會,因為金管會對國內外金融科技公司的觀念過時,只把它們看成是搭配既有金融機構的「工具提供者」。「這些外國公司有競爭力,金管會不希望看到它們擾亂國內市場。」他說。


一家台灣金融控股公司的數位轉型員工也認同這個看法。「他們勢必會設法保護國內金融機構的利益。」她說:「但這也是一種大家長的心態,想要確保市場不會出現問題。」


天下雜誌資深記者盧沛樺認為,這個問題有一部分深植於台灣的法規框架。「有些國家會核發特定金融服務的執照。」專門報導金融產業的盧說:「但台灣是一張執照打通關。」也就是說,發放執照給國外企業,等於是讓企業全面進入台灣金融市場。

但跟許多人一樣,盧沛樺認為,這種落伍心態不僅讓在台外籍人士惱怒,對台灣人何嘗不是如此。有些台灣人在國外處理銀行業務,同樣也是惡夢一場。

來自苗栗縣的生意人侯美珍,九〇年代曾在英國的銀行開戶,後來想把五百英鎊的餘額匯回台灣,怎知卻演變成一場長達幾十年的痛苦經驗。2003年,她委託親戚趁一趟英國行處理,卻被銀行告知必須由本人關閉戶頭。這筆錢一直到現在還閒置在巴克萊銀行。

跟她相比,她姪女在澳洲的經驗好很多。「她從伯斯大學畢業回台灣後,用電子簽名就關掉戶頭了。」侯說:「有太多留學生沒有關閉帳戶就回國,所以澳洲銀行願意這麼做。」


曾服務於花旗銀行的電商產品經理Monica Lai,在2007年到2012年旅居英國,對當地銀行服務的印象稍微好一點。「即使在那時候,我也很少親自到國民西敏寺銀行。」她說:「我上網或打電話就能辦好95%的事項。」


然而,在台灣出生的美國籍製片人練克煒(Carl Thelin),能夠認同侯的挫折感,因為他之前想從台灣關閉英國戶頭,同樣碰得一鼻子灰。「我後來飛了一趟倫敦,跟BBC電視台談案子。」練克煒說:「雖然最後沒有談成,但幸好終於可以把那些戶頭關了。」不過,他說英國仍舊是「我經歷過全世界第二糟糕的銀行體系」,第一名是台灣,而且「還超前許多」。


金管會銀行局副局長童政彰說,對於外籍人士在台灣遇到的銀行問題,他表示遺憾。「聽到有這些問題,我很訝異也很遺憾。」他說。他歡迎大家提出意見,認為這樣有助於金管會與銀行主管會面時,加強「場外監理」。「我們會讓各家銀行的總經理知道,政策與實務做法必須微調,更用心處理這類情況。」


In a system that relies on “self-regulation,” Taiwan banks are hesitant to lend their services to foreign nationals.


What’s in a name? When it comes to banking in Taiwan, quite a lot – especially if you’re a foreigner. For Anthony van Dyck, a long-term Canadian resident of Taiwan, an unwieldy name has proved a perennial hindrance to completing what should be routine procedures.


“I’ve been going to the same bank for almost 30 years – longer than any of the tellers have worked there – and at least twice a year there’s a problem,” says van Dyck, a director at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan. “My full name [with middle names], which is on my APRC, is a mouthful. They insist it should be like that on their official documents. The trouble is, their system doesn’t accept that many characters.”


Name-related fiascos feature prominently in expat gripes about banks in Taiwan. Andy, a British national who has worked as a teacher here for over a decade, recounts a “bureaucratic nightmare” with Taiwan Cooperative Bank (TCB) while trying to receive funds from abroad.


“My mother sent money using the Western style – given name, middle name, then surname,” he says. “They rejected the transaction on the grounds that the name didn’t match. This was pre-internet banking, so she had to trudge back to her bank and resend it according to the Chinese style, with the surname first.”


Following lengthy discussions with a TCB manager, Andy was able to add the Western version of his name to his account, alongside the Chinese format and the characters for his Chinese name. Shortly afterward, however, another remittance was rejected as it didn’t include his middle name. “I told them that this wasn’t required – even airline tickets don’t need the middle name – but they insisted on an exact match,” he says. “When I asked if I could add another option, they said two variations was the limit.”


Aside from a frustrating bureaucracy, foreigners frequently report problems with accessing financial products and services. Many banks in Taiwan still routinely refuse to issue credit cards to foreign nationals without a local guarantor, and the few that do often relent only after considerable pushback. Bizarrely, the local sponsor is seldom subject to a credit check and does not even need to provide any employment history.


There is no legal justification for this practice, says Phil Chen-Chang Tong, deputy director-general of the Banking Bureau at Taiwan’s Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC). Tong cites the “5 P’s principle” as the criteria that should be used to determine whether credit can be extended. The P’s refer to a person’s financial status, the purpose of the credit, the (re)payment sources, the protection (for the bank in terms of a borrower’s assets), and the perspective (of the borrower’s future resources).


“No matter whether you’re a foreigner or a local, banks should follow this principle,” says Tong. “Under our financial inclusion policy, no bank can have a regulation excluding foreigners.” However, Tong admits that “with more than 3,400 branches scattered across the island, there may be non-standard practices.”


Highlighting a February 9 press release reaffirming the FSC’s commitment to promoting a foreigner-friendly environment, Tong says FSC Chairman Huang Tien-mu has taken a hands-on approach to increasing the number of bank branches with bilingual facilities, application forms, and service counters with bilingual personnel.


“Each year, he picks one or two banks at random and visits their branches accompanied by the Minister of the National Development Council,” says Tong. “Last year, they visited Far Eastern International Bank and Bank of Taiwan to ensure their practices fulfill our expectations.”


FSC data from December 2022 puts the number of bilingual branches at 827 – an almost five-fold increase since the end of 2020, and an encouraging sign. However, other measures announced in the press release remain vaguely defined, consisting of directives to “improve” services but lacking concrete instructions on how to do so.


Elsewhere, FSC communication touts new provisions under the government’s Employment Gold Card Policy, which offers tax breaks and other benefits for “foreign professionals with financial expertise.” Four banks – Bank of Taiwan, First Bank, Huanan Bank, and Mega Bank – offer special services to Gold Card holders, including custom credit cards. However, these benefits cover only a small number of individuals – fewer than 6,000 at the close of last year – most of whom stay for a period of one to three years. Foreigners who have lived and worked in Taiwan for decades, including successful entrepreneurs and well-salaried employees, are not eligible for such incentives. On the contrary, many continue to be denied basic services available to almost any Taiwanese.


“Taiwanese banks are a bit xenophobic,” says Derek, a British business owner who has lived in Taiwan since 1994. As an example, “opening a business account required me sending in funds from overseas, which is just stupid,” he says.

Derek recalls being among the first foreigners he knew of in Taiwan to obtain a mortgage without a guarantor. He was flatly rejected when he first applied at the bank he had been using for years to receive his salary from the multinational financial institution he worked for. “No questions, no option to discuss,” he says. “My salary was plenty to cover the mortgage payments.”


Over the next couple of years, Derek approached a total of 14 local and foreign banks and received the same response. His final roll of the die was with a branch of an international bank that he heard might be more receptive to foreigners.

“I prepared well, with a PowerPoint presentation of my net worth, earnings, etc.,” he says. “Once again, the minions in the branch rejected me, but this time I insisted on seeing the manager. After I made my presentation to him, he finally agreed to give me a mortgage with no local guarantor, but with 50% cash down.”


That requirement would be beyond the means of many foreign nationals, and it was achieved only after causing “one hell of a fuss and being very annoyingly persistent, Derek says. In the face of such hurdles, most people simply give up, he notes.


Once again, banks were not playing by the rules. Taiwan’s laws on foreign nationals purchasing property are based on the principle of reciprocity. As such, there should be no barrier to getting a mortgage for those who meet the 5Ps, says FSC’s Tong.


Business owners can be hampered in other ways. Despite an amendment put forward by the Bankers Association of the Republic of China to regulations governing online services for foreigners, many foreign nationals still encounter obstacles with internet banking. The added insistence that business accounts be opened at the branch nearest the registered address of a business can make for some irksome experiences.


“As the foreign head of a company in Taiwan, I couldn’t get internet banking for at least six months,” says van Dyck. “The bank says it’s an anti-money laundering (AML) thing. After 27 years at the same bank, do they think I’m playing the long game, and now comes the cheat? An 18-year-old Taiwanese would be able to get this right off the bat.”


Elaine Salt, a pharmaceutical industry executive, tells a similar story. “I have money I’ve saved over the years in Entie Bank, and my sons have money there, too. All I want to do is transfer money between accounts, but they won’t give me internet banking,” says Salt. “They claim foreigners are not allowed, but Fubon Bank and HSBC give me internet banking, so Entie is just making it up.”


Another problem arose two years ago at Fubon Bank, where Salt has high-net-worth individual status. Hoping to avail herself of an arrangement that gives customers a 3% rebate on points earned with the Line communication app, she applied for a linked JCB card.


“I used to get Cathay Miles, but because of the pandemic I wasn’t flying, so didn’t need a card linked to an airline anymore,” she says. “The ridiculous thing is, I already have two cards with them. They know how much I earn, they know I own a house, plus they know I’m sending money overseas for my son’s school fees. They’re well aware of what liquidity is involved.”


Nevertheless, she was told by her personal banker that because she didn’t have a Taiwanese ID, she would need a guarantor. At one point, she was advised that her sons – for whom she still provides – could sign on her behalf. Following a “meltdown,” during which she threatened to close her account, Salt received a call approving her application later that afternoon.


Despite the launch of three digital banks – Line Bank, Rakuten Bank, and Next Bank – in the last two years, matters have yet to improve.

“We initially had high expectations for virtual banks, but we haven’t seen anything from them,” says Kunchou Tsai, a managing partner at Enlighten Law Group, which specializes in fintech. “On the contrary, they are simply trying to survive because there are still too many barriers, including AML regulations and requirements to conduct certain procedures physically.”


Hopes that major foreign fintech firms will enter the market are unlikely to be realized anytime soon, says Tsai. He mentions the London-headquartered firms Wise and Revolut as among companies that have approached Enlighten about accessing the FSC’s regulatory sandbox.


“After evaluation, they concluded that it would take too long – six months to a year – to get approval, and then another year in the sandbox,” he says. “After that, applying for your actual financial license could take a further year. For a fintech company, three years is a lifetime.”


While Tsai says money laundering is a legitimate concern, the real problem seems to be the FSC’s outmoded view of fintech – domestic or foreign – as simply a “tool provider” to complement existing institutions. “They don’t want these competitive foreign firms being disruptive to the market.”


This view is supported by a digital transition employee at a Taiwanese financial holding company. “They definitely try to protect native institutions’ interests,” she says. “But it’s also just a parenting attitude – trying to make sure that nothing goes wrong.”


Lu Pei-hua, a senior reporter with CommonWealth Magazine, believes the problem is partially rooted in Taiwan’s regulatory framework. “In some countries, they provide licenses that focus on specific services,” says Lu, who focuses on banking. “But in Taiwan it’s one full license for everything.” Granting access to the domestic financial market is thus seen as giving carte blanche to foreign firms.


However, like many others, Lu believes this old-fashioned mindset is just as aggravating for Taiwanese as it is for foreign residents. And Taiwanese with experience of banking abroad have their own personal nightmares to relate.


For Hou Mei-chen, a businesswoman from Miaoli County, opening an account in the UK in the 1990s turned into a decades-long ordeal to retrieve her remaining £500 balance upon returning to Taiwan. Relatives attempted to assist during a visit to London in 2003 but were told the account holder had to close the account in person. The money remains sitting in a Barclays Bank account to this day.


Hou’s experience compares unfavorably with that of her niece in Australia. “After she graduated from university in Perth and came back to Taiwan, she closed her account with a digital signature,” says Hou. “Because so many overseas students leave without closing accounts, Australian banks allow this.”


Monica Lai, an e-commerce product manager and former Citibank employee who lived in the UK between 2007 and 2012, has a slightly better impression of banking there. “Even back then, I barely went to Natwest,” she says. “Ninety-five percent of the things I needed to do could be done online or via phone.”


However, Carl Thelin, a Taiwan-born American filmmaker, corroborates Hou’s frustration in trying to close a UK bank account remotely. “Eventually I had to fly to London to negotiate a deal with the BBC,” says Thelin. “It ended up falling through, but my one consolation was I got to shut those damned accounts.” Still, Thelin says the UK remains only “the second worst banking system I have ever had the displeasure to experience.” Top spot, he says, goes to Taiwan “by some way.”


For his part, FSC’s Tong expresses regret at the problems foreign nationals face with banking in Taiwan. “I’m surprised and sorry to hear about these problems,” says Tong. He welcomes feedback, which he says will help improve the FSC’s “offsite supervision” through meetings with banking executives.

“We will let the bank CEOs know that our policies and practices need to be fine-tuned to pay more attention to such cases.”





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