Starting a company in the UK: Here’s what you need to know

With the Brexit drama engulfing the UK and resulting in the scalp of yet another Prime Minister, it’s tempting to overlook that country as a place to start a new business. However, the reality is that the UK’s highly advanced first world market coupled with the fact that it remains geographically close to the Eurozone still continues to make it an attractive investment destination, despite Brexit. And in this interview, Sable International’s Scott Brown explains how you can go about registering a new company in the UK. – Gareth van Zyl

It’s a pleasure to welcome onto the podcast Scott Brown who is an SME Accounting Director for Sable International.  Scott thanks for joining us from London.

Nice to be here.

So the UK’s reputation for bureaucracy can be quite daunting for businesses looking to relocate there, but it’s apparently quite easy to start a company. Could you tell us more?

Yes, I think at times London’s probably been given a bit of a bad rap with regard to working here, but overall starting a company within the UK is actually very simple actually. You can get it all set up and done in less than five days whereby you will have a company completely incorporated with the necessary directors and shareholders.

In an article that Sable International has written, one potential challenge that your team mentions is obtaining a bank account. However, you go on to say that a managed Trust Account can help in this instance. Can you explain how that works?

Yes, so the banks in the UK are difficult to deal with. We often get asked whether to use one bank over the other and the answer, generally, is they are all the same. So you can have some great experiences and at other times it can be quite difficult. The banks ask for quite a lot of information, and if you don’t have someone on the ground in the UK, it can take anywhere from 3-9 months. However, we do have a relationship with one of the banks here that allows us to set up an account on behalf of a company. So it will all be in the Company’s name, but it sits with Sable International. So by doing that, it allows you to get up and running quite quickly. Generally, we can set that account up in about 2 weeks and you can get your business up and running while we’re here trying to apply for the Company’s own bank account.

So it basically acts as a switchover if you like, or a transition phase?

Yes, it allows you to get up and running and do your business. Any clients that you deal with can make payments to your company. The bank account is in the company’s name, but it just means that you can basically get going a lot sooner than if you had to deal with the banks yourself and wait for them to actually open the company’s account. Once the company’s own account is set up, we generally close the Trust Account because it is not needed anymore.

Let’s say you are based in South Africa and you open a company in the UK – would you as the company representative need to spend a certain amount of time in the UK in order for it to remain valid. How does that work?

Yes, good question. The UK does not actually require a director to be in the UK. So we do have a number of companies where all the directors are based offshore. The company can be run that way. The shareholders don’t have to be within the UK as well and if that is generally the case, we step in and usually operate as the Company Secretary to help out with any requirements that are needed in the UK. But you don’t have to move over to the UK to actually get your business up and running here.

Aerial view of Thames river and London City.

What are the benefits of starting a company in the UK versus anywhere else in the world, especially at a time that Brexit is hovering over the UK?

Yes, that is also a very good question. I’d like to say we knew exactly what was happening with Brexit but like the politicians, no one knows at this point in time. However, having said that, the UK is still very good for business. It’s recently been shown that the UK and London especially has one of the largest investments in the FinTech space. The UK is geared up to take on your business, whatever it may be. But one of the great benefits of being in the UK is the low corporation tax rate that we have here which is currently set at 19%, which is one of the lowest in Europe. There is talk that it will be dropped lower but I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens with Brexit. Also, once you have your business set up here, there are opportunities to trade with Europe, regardless of what is going to happen with Brexit. We can help any business move along into Europe as well if they want to.

In terms of the demand from South African individuals or companies looking to open up a company in the UK, are you seeing that demand growing at the moment?

We are actually seeing it grow and in quite different ways as well. We get a lot of queries regarding setting up a business in the UK. So having a business here can help them literally get citizenship within the UK but also for wanting to move out of the SA day market, or just to simply increase their market share. We often set up a company for a SA company where they are just looking to get into the UK, get into Europe. Europe has a funny reputation whereby it prefers dealing with other European companies. So we often find that someone seeks setting up their company in the UK simply to allow ease of trade within the UK and Europe.

Sable International has a whole suite of services as well. Would you be able to explain how some of those services can help businesses that have successfully launched in the UK?

I think one service that a lot of our clients find great is the foreign exchange offering. So basically if you have your company in South Africa, and you want to move or relocate to the UK, money needs to go backwards and forwards. And instead of using the banks and being tied up with all of the red tape, we can certainly help move your money around the world and provide a better rate than the bank and make that whole process smoother. We can also help with regard to settlement within the UK through our visa company. Also, our Wealth company can help if someone is moving completely out of South Africa and they need to look at moving their wealth from that country as well.  So what we try and do is to create a whole package for someone that is looking to either simply move their business from SA to the UK, or perhaps move their whole family across. We try and put a package together that will help them in every way possible.

And Scott for anybody who is interested in this, how can they get in touch with you?

First of all, it’s probably best to have a look on our website where they can look at all the different services. There is also a ‘Contact Us’ page on that website that they can fill out. If they give us a few more details, then one of our guys will get in touch with them to go through their queries and also help them with their journey. And you can call us on +442077597553.

Scott Brown thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today.

No problem. Thank you very much.

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