Montenegro is precisely the kind of country that excites us at Nomad Capitalist. It’s a brand new nation, one that’s brimming with opportunity and is eager for investment.
Since gaining independence in 2006, the country has looked for new ways to demonstrate business friendliness. The result is a low-tax, low-regulation country that’s warm, friendly, affordable, and boasts a thriving real estate market.
With the country on track to join the EU, we expect real estate values to rise and levels of investment to increase. But since that penny hasn’t dropped yet, there are still plenty of opportunities to be had.
We think that might have something to do with the fact that Montenegro is so new and also quite small. So before we look at Montenegro’s banking system, let’s look at where it is and get some more context about the country’s history, geography, and economy.
Montenegro – Country Overview
Montenegro is a small Balkan republic of approximately 628,066 people.
It’s located in the southeast of Europe, on the Adriatic sea. Once a part of the former Yugoslavia, then later Serbia and Montenegro, it held a referendum on independence in 2006. Following the results of the referendum, Montenegro declared its independence from Serbia.
The country joined NATO in 2017 and is currently in the process of joining the European Union. Though not a member of the Eurozone, it uses the euro as its official currency.
The capital city is Podgorica, and the official language is Montenegrin though the country’s reliance on tourism means that English is also widely spoken.
The country’s rapidly growing tourism sector brought in over 20% of the country’s GDP in the nine years leading up to the pandemic and is now rising again.
Tourists from neighboring Balkan countries continue to provide a steady stream of income.
They’re increasingly joined by tourists from all over Europe looking for uncrowded beaches and value for money, especially when it means they don’t have to convert their cash to another currency.
On the other end of the spectrum, meanwhile, is a thriving luxury tourism sector with exclusive resorts and marinas dotted all along the Adriatic sea.
A stable and business-friendly government, combined with the country’s favorable tax system and adoption of the Euro as currency, means the country is equally popular with foreign investors.
Montenegro is an interesting market from a real estate perspective, and the Montenegrin government is actively looking for investors to develop it further.
As the country continues to attract investment, its banking and financial industries will grow, creating more opportunities and providing more loans, particularly for clients in the tourism sector.
Montenegro – Banking System Overview
Montenegro’s banking system is small but growing. Although there are several investment banks in Montenegro to choose from, retail banking and corporate banking are the main focus areas.
Private banking clients are also catered for in some banks. International accounts and international transfers are also widely available, and e-banking services exist for almost all accounts, but it’s still worth asking first just to be sure.
While many of the banks are local, international banks also exist, such as Austria’s Erste Bank AD Podgorica and Turkey’s Ziraat bank.
Unlike some other low-tax European jurisdictions, most larger international banking chains and financial companies have yet to set up shop there. However, this will likely change quickly if the country’s EU membership is accepted.
Those looking for an offshore bank account in Montenegro should be advised that the country’s banking sector is still in flux, with a couple of notable closures in recent years.
Meanwhile, the 2020 merger of two of Montenegro’s largest banks, Crnogorska Komercijalna Banka (CKB) and Podgoricka Banka, further reduced the number of banks in the country.
When looking to open a bank account, remember that most banks in Montenegro have been privatized relatively recently compared to other European countries. So the country’s banking sector is still maturing.
The following list of Montenegrin banks, therefore, is subject to change. At the time of writing, there are currently 11 banks operating in Montenegro, all headquartered in the capital, Podgorica.
Addiko Bank is an Austrian bank with numerous branches in Montenegro and other countries throughout the Balkans. Its services include various types of bank accounts, including deposit accounts, savings accounts, plus loans, insurance, and payment cards.
Adriatic Bank offers a full range of services, from retail and corporate banking to private banking and investment banking.
Crnogorska Komercijalna Banka is owned by Hungary’s OTP Group. In 2019 it incorporated Podgorička Banka (then trading as Societe Generale Bank Montenegro) to become the largest bank in Montenegro. It offers personal bank accounts, loans, and other services for SMEs, as well as larger-scale corporate banking and private banking.
Erste Bank AD Podgorica is a part of the Austrian Erste Group, one of the larger international banks in Montenegro. Its primary focus is retail banking though it also offers loans and other services for SMEs.
Hipotekarna Banka provides a full complement of retail banking services and a range of other accounts, including corporate banking and investment banking accounts.
Lovćen Banka AD Podgorica offers retail banking, with a strong focus on loans, bank cards, payment cards, and credit cards, as well as providing services to small to medium size businesses.
NLB Banka AD Podgorica is a commercial bank offering retail, small business, and corporate banking accounts to its customers.
Prva Banka Crne Gore can trace its origins back to Montenegro’s first bank, Niksic Saving Bank, founded in 1901. The company was renamed in 2007, and today it offers a full range of services, including retail banking, tourism and agricultural loans, corporate banking, and investment banking.
Universal Capital Bank AD Podgorica provides retail banking and business banking, with a focus on providing loans for small businesses and the tourism sector, alongside investment banking and brokerage services.
Zapad Banka AD is a universal bank providing various services, including retail banking, corporate banking, and investment banking solutions.
ZIRAAT Bank Montenegro is a Turkish-owned bank providing both retail and corporate banking.
Opening a Bank Account in Montenegro
Opening a Montenegro bank account is relatively straightforward compared to many other jurisdictions though recent events have made it slightly more complicated.
To increase foreign investment and meet its EU accession criteria, the government of Montenegro takes steps to continuously improve regulation within its banking sector.
The Montenegrin central bank has ruled that foreigners be screened before opening a bank account. So unless you are a resident, you will need to fill out a form which will be submitted to the Central Montenegrin Bank, along with your passport details and contact information.
There is no guarantee that you will be approved and it largely depends on your nationality.
Russian nationals, for example, will be rejected. Montenegro does have close cultural ties with Russia, but politically, it knows its future is with the EU, so it legislates accordingly.
A non-resident looking to open a business account, for example, will have to meet due diligence requirements, particularly if that individual is deemed to be a politically exposed person.
If you are a foreigner living in Montenegro, you can make an appointment at your local bank branch to set up an account.
You will need to provide them with proper identification. Some may accept a national ID card though generally when conducting any business offshore, the general rule is always to have a valid passport.
You will also have to provide proof of address plus employment details if you are working in the country or your business details if you wish to open a business account.
You may be asked to provide additional documentation as a business or private banking customer. And these criteria are also likely to change, especially as the banking sector in Montenegro continues to mature, with more banks setting up shop and more regulations coming into effect.
Montenegro’s Deposit Protection Scheme
Currently, Montenegro provides a depositor safety scheme valued at €50,000 for deposits of both residents and non-residents, either as individuals or legal entities. This covers clients of all Montenegrin bank accounts, regardless of which bank or account type they use.
So in the event of a bank running into difficulty (which has happened in the past), your deposits are covered up to the value of €50,000 (but not beyond that amount.)
It’s wise to discuss this with your bank before opening an account and ask them what other protections and guarantees they offer, especially before moving money into the bank from abroad.
Likewise, get a list of any fees, such as currency exchange fees or fees for transferring money to other banks, to ensure you find the right bank for your needs.
Montenegro Bank FAQs
Can foreigners open a bank account in Montenegro?
Yes, non-residents can open a Montenegro bank account. In most cases, all that’s required is a valid ID (passport) and proof of address, plus either proof of employment or your business details.
Different clients may require additional checks, for example, those looking to set up business or private banking accounts.
How many banks are in Montenegro?
As of the time of writing, there are currently 11 banks operating in Montenegro. This comes after a couple of noteworthy closures and the recent merger of its two largest banks.
What is the largest bank in Montenegro?
Crnogorska Komercijalna Banka is the largest bank in Montenegro. It is operated by OTP Group. In 2019 it absorbed another of Montenegro’s largest banks, Podgorička Banka, which OTP acquired from Societe Generale. The result was to merge both of Montenegro’s largest banks under the Crnogorska Komercijalna Banka banner.
What is the oldest bank in Montenegro?
Prva Banka Crne Gore is the oldest bank in Montenegro. The bank, which was previously known as Nikšićka Banka AD, was the very first bank in Montenegro. Today it has 31 branches and an extensive network of ATMs to withdraw cash, which began from a single bank established in 1901.
Is there a central bank in Montenegro?
Yes. Centralna Banka Crne Gore (CBCG) is the central bank of Montenegro, which regulates the country’s financial system. Its responsibilities include providing licenses to banks and other related financial services companies in Montenegro and vetting foreign companies looking to enter the local market.
Montenegro uses the Euro as currency, but it is not part of the European Central Bank system, so all of its cash is imported. However, since Montenegro wishes to join the EU and the Eurozone, it still closely follows ECB policies.
Source: Nomad Capitalist