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FastTrack to expanding overseas


The pandemic may have put a brake on activity, but many businesses are now revisiting their international expansion plans.

Last year, Standard Chartered research found that 42% of multinational companies headquartered in the UK, US, Germany and France saw their best growth opportunities outside their home region. This was up 5 percentage points on the 2020 figure. Chinese brands, meanwhile, are looking to Western markets as sales lag at home.

And what’s true for multinationals is true for SMEs. Over 40% of small UK firms, for example, are looking to expand internationally, according to one YouGov survey.

But setting up an operation overseas can be costly – in terms of finance, focus and resources. Is it worth it?

Most obviously, overseas expansion gives you access to new markets and growth opportunities as well as a range of operational benefits. But weighing the balance of risk and reward is essential, as is working with the best partners in every new market you target

Read on to learn how Intertrust Group can help you navigate the complexity of accessing a new market.

Why expand overseas?

There are several compelling reasons.

  • Strategic: Tapping into a new customer base can speed growth and spread risk, especially when home markets are saturated or crowded. A foreign base might also give you access to new talent, lower costs and potential tax efficiencies. Meeting the needs of a new cohort of customers can spur innovation in product and service development. Meanwhile, nations that are actively seeking foreign direct investment (FDI) are likely to offer attractive incentives to overseas businesses.
  • Operational: Amid ever-evolving regulations, geopolitical shifts and disruption brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations are facing significant operational challenges and uncertainty. Overseas expansion can be part of a business continuity strategy, ensuring you stay open for business in one country even while locking down in another. It can also help you tap into alternative supply chains and production facilities, and might even introduce you to new and better ways of doing things. Foreign experiences expand the mind, in business as well as in life.

At a glance: the challenges of accessing new markets

While the potential rewards are great, there is no disguising the complexity of cross-border expansion. No two markets are exactly alike: what works in one country may fall flat in another.

What homework do you need to do? It depends to some extent on your sector, but there are constants. In April 2022 we asked a wide sample of business decision-makers what was stopping organisations from expanding into new markets. By far the largest number (64%) cited legal and regulatory challenges as the key barrier to entry.

Other challenges include:

  • Understanding the local market – will you have to adapt your product or service?
  • Understanding local language, etiquette and business culture
  • Talent acquisition and onboarding
  • Setting up supply chains
  • Tax and accountancy laws

Where should you move to?

Exactly where you expand to will strongly depend on your size, sector and service. You may also have a preference based on in-house experience. Depending on your industry, you will need to consider factors such as a potential distribution network, the local technology infrastructure, the availability of a skilled, multilingual workforce and the country’s ease of doing business.

When making your decision, remember that a target jurisdiction’s economic development and FDI agencies can help you understand the local business climate, make introductions to local partners, provide crucial business information and guide you through the incentives on offer.

Together with these agencies, the right business partners will help you draw up comparisons and select the right country based on your specific goals and circumstances.

To guide your decision, consider the following questions:

Are the market conditions attractive?

Is there a demand for your products/services?

Is there potential for business growth?

Will you have access to the right skills?

Will you be able to retain the same business culture and model?

Regional focus: Setting up in Europe 


As well as the general benefits listed above, setting up in Europe also has specific advantages:

  • After Covid-19 lockdowns and Brexit there is significant uncertainty, and UK businesses trading with the EU and vice versa face an increased level of bureaucracy.
  • Doing business with European customers is proving more difficult and costly, with red tape causing delays and tariffs.
  • Having an EU base helps UK companies navigate these difficult circumstances. At the same time, it limits your exposure to any negative consequences of new EU/UK legislation.
  • Growth: having a platform in the EU can make it easier to acquire talent and explore new markets.


Limited Liability Company: the most common legal form. The limited liaibility entity is then a subsidiary of the group company (whether UK, Swiss or EU). 

Branch: an extension of the UK company without separate legal personality but is typically registered in the EU country in which it operates. The branch operates as an extension of the parent company. 

Standalone company: A standalone company can have a variety of purposes, one of which keeping certain assets off balance (of the group company). 


Common or civil law


Time to incorporate a company


Average time to open a bank account


Level of difficulty opening bank account World Talent Ranking*


Corporation tax rate


Legal Requirement to have local director




Common law Within 24 hours 2-4 weeks Medium 17th 12.5% One Director required to be EU resident
The Netherlands


Civil Law 3-4 weeks 3-4 weeks High 9th 25.8% None


Civil Law 2-3 weeks 6-8 weeks Medium 25th 25% None


Civil Law 2-3 weeks


5-8 weeks High 10th 23-33%** None
Luxembourg Civil Law 3-4 weeks 1-2 weeks High 3rd 24.94% None

*According to 2021 IMD World Talent Ranking:

**including trade tax

Regional focus: setting up a business in APAC


As well as the general benefits listed above, setting up in Asia Pacific (APAC) also has specific advantages:

  • According to the Standard Chartered research mentioned above, 85% of companies surveyed are already conducting or considering a wide range of activities in Asia, including sourcing, exporting and manufacturing.
  • Eight of the 18 developing economies that have shown consistently strong growth over the past 50 years are in Southeast Asia.
  • Despite a pandemic slowdown, APAC remains the fastest growing region in the world, according to the IMF.
  • It is becoming easier to set up a business or entity across the APAC region.


Subsidiary company: a private limited company with the parent company as shareholder. Subsidiaries are popular options for setting up operations in many Asian countries.

Branch: a branch is registered in the local country but remains an extension of its parent company.

Representative office: businesses wanting to conduct market research in many APAC countries often set up a representative office, a temporary structure with no legal status.


Popular APAC destinations include:

Common or civil law


Time to incorporate a company


Average time to open a bank account


Level of difficulty opening bank account World Talent Ranking*


Corporation tax rate


Legal Requirement to have local director




Common law 1-2 days 2-4 weeks Medium 12th 17% Yes
Hong Kong


Common law 1-3 weeks 4 weeks Medium 11th 16.5% No


Common Law 1-3 days 4 weeks Medium 20th 25-30% Yes

*According to 2021 IMD World Talent Ranking:

How to set up an overseas business

There are three ways:

Self-directed: form legal entity, hire local talent, identify and lease office space, find and instruct local accountants and lawyers. Open a bank account. Hire local company secretary.

Time to market: 8-12 months

Partially supported: work with a service provider to form a company and provide registered office/agent and company secretarial service. Appoint internal directors and hire local employees. Open a bank account.

Time to market: 3-6 months

Fully supported: engage with a service provider who can provide a fully outsourced solution including registered office/agent, company secretary, directors, accountants, tax filing, payroll and in some cases office space if required. Assistance with opening a bank account with partner banks and introductions to local third parties as required.

Time to market: 1-2 months

How can Intertrust Group help your business enter a new market?

Intertrust Group provides a wide range of services to corporate clients looking to enter new markets. Our 4,000 employees provide world-leading, specialised administration services in more than 30 jurisdictions. A further 120+ jurisdictions are covered by our approved partner network.

Our local, expert knowledge and innovative, proprietary technology combine to deliver a compelling proposition. We help our clients to invest, grow and thrive anywhere in the world.

When expanding abroad for the first time, Intertrust Group can assist you with:

  • Formation of legal entities
  • Setting-up bank accounts
  • Assistance with preparation, completion and filing of incorporation and formation documents
  • Registration of newly formed entities with local registers and authorities
  • Office space solutions
  • Administrative support services
  • Accounting, bookkeeping and financial reporting
  • Payroll administration services

Talk to our experts today

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