A Vostro account is part of correspondent banking where a foreign bank holds the funds and acts as an intermediary to those funds. The account is held on behalf of a domestic bank that manages and supervises the funds. The domestic bank will approach the international correspondent bank to open an account on behalf of their client. The correspondent will hold the funds, and the domestic bank will act as the custodian or manager of the funds.
The Latin translation of “Vostro” is “your,” meaning “your account.” The translation is useful when thinking about how the account interacts with other banks and their funds. Vostro accounts refer to “your” money, which is being held on deposit by their (third party) bank.
The accounts benefit clients with global banking needs and allow them, through their own bank, to open accounts in other countries as they need. Most Vostro accounts will have the same preferred services as a regular bank account, including foreign exchange transactions, deposits and withdrawals, and money or wire transfers.
A Vostro account is a bank account held abroad through a relationship between two banks. It provides the benefits that many consumers may need, but most domestic banks cannot offer on an international scale.
Vostro translates to “your,” meaning “your account,” of which the corresponding firm is only the financial intermediary for ‘your’ accounts.
In most situations, Vostro accounts are used to manage foreign trades or settlements of foreign exchanges.
For example, if a European insurance company contacted a Canadian bank regarding the management of their funds or their client’s funds, the Canadian bank would be opening a Vostro account for the European insurance company. It is the holding bank that would ultimately decide and open the Vostro account.
Here is an example to further break down the use of a Vostro account from the customer side. A domestic bank customer who maintains a Vostro account at a correspondent bank can go to their home bank to use the correspondent’s international services and complete transactions through its Vostro account.
They can ask for a wire transfer to pay a supplier in a foreign country. The correspondent bank deducts the specified amount from their account and transfers it to the Vostro account, where it is then exchanged to the foreign currency and ultimately paid to the requested supplier.
Keep in mind that most transfers will incur transaction fees, which are deducted from the account at the end of the transaction.
Why Do Banks Offer Such Services?
Banks offer Vostro accounts for a multitude of reasons. For one, it is expensive (or sometimes impossible) to open and operate a bank branch in another country. Therefore, to satisfy customers with international banking needs, many institutions will create relationships with banks abroad so they can easily provide Vostro accounts and associated services to their clients.
As an agent of a domestic bank, the correspondent bank can facilitate agreed-upon services for the client as they travel abroad, work abroad, or do business/own a company internationally. Correspondent banks act as a financial intermediary in the relationship and execute transactions that are requested.
Vostro Account vs. Nostro Account
We know that Vostro accounts are used in foreign banking as an intermediary for transactions where the correspondent bank acts as a manager or supervisor of the funds. Further, the term “Vostro” is Latin for “yours,” implying the funds are solely the customers.
A Nostro account is a bank account that holds funds in the foreign country’s currency of which that correspondent firm presides. “Nostro” is Latin and translates to “ours” and is used to facilitate international trade transactions involving different currencies and foreign exchange. A Nostro account is used for the customer to keep track of their funds held internationally in the country’s respective currency.
To further compare a Vostro account with a Nostro account, we can look at the following relationship:
Let’s say a customer approaches a U.S. bank wanting to open a European bank account. The account will be treated as a Nostro account (our account) for the U.S. bank and a Vostro account (your account) for the European bank.
Nostro accounts are used simultaneously with Vostro accounts to keep track of banking transactions and differentiate between both sides of the relationship. In simpler terms, Vostro accounts are used to track money held or owed to a bank by a third party. A Nostro account is used to record how much of the original bank’s money is being held by another institution.