Latvia is an attractive financial and trading centre to facilitate business operations in this region, due to its location between CIS and Western countries and membership in European Union. The country has highly sophisticated banking system within Eastern Europe.
There are 30 banks in Latvia, 10 of them are branches of foreign banks. The number of Latvian commercial banks has grown significantly since the crisis of 1998, when there were 22 banks.
All Latvian banks working with non-resident customers offer full range of services including credit cards, online (Internet) banking and other remote account management tools.
Latvian offshore bank accounts once were quite popular and well-known vehicle for conducting international business. About twenty international banks offered the service of opening personal and corporate accounts to international clients.
Now, it is hardly possible to open offshore bank account in one of Latvian banks, because of changed legislation and more strict rules especially concerning due diligence and customer’s identity. Being member of the European Union, Latvia brought its legislation concerning foreign investments in accordance with EU standards. Latvia also strengthened the regulations governing the formation of Latvian companies by foreign investors, and this step has reduced the number of possible business entities that can be incorporated under the Latvian law.
The Bank of Latvia had been responsible for the supervision of the banking system in Latvia until 2001. Beginning on July 1, 2001, the Financial and Capital Market Commission (FCMC) was launched, whose function was integration of the Banking Supervision Department of the Bank of Latvia, the Securities Market Commission and the Insurance Supervision Inspectorate.
The legal framework for banking supervision is provided by the Law on the Financial and Capital Market Commission of 2001 and the Credit Institution Law of 1995. A Deposit Insurance Law and an Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) Law were also adopted.
Latvian banking legislation includes provisions on accounting and financial statements, minimum capital adequacy requirements, large exposures, restrictions on insider lending, open foreign exchange positions, and loan-loss provisions.
According to the IMF’s 2009 Staff Report, Latvian banking laws will be amended to allow the FCMC, BoL and the Ministry of Finance ‘to take timely and effective actions to restore financial stability in systemic crises’.