A MALAYSIAN investor, working for an American firm in Hongkong, wants to finance his new Thailand property investment, with his Swiss bank account: welcome to Hongkong, the home of international banking. In no other part of the world is international banking as important. But it can also get complicated. Unfortunately, in a city where time is money, most people do not devote enough attention to the research of smart and profitable international banking. ''It's true, most people don't study their choices, they just go to the banks they know, especially the big-name banks. Consequently, they end up losing money by getting less and paying more,'' said Ms Yvonne Fong, regional marketing manager at Tyndall Bank International. Everyone wanted to obtain the best rates, but there were many questions that needed answering, Ms Fong said. While complex, the banking industry is becoming increasingly aware of international customers' needs, and, consequently, is now offering many attractive services. For instance, one of the most important aspects of international banking is rate of interest. Unlike Hongkong, where high inflation rates quickly erode depositors' slowly accruing interest rates, offshore banking can provide attractive returns on savings or cheque accounts. It is surprising that banks which offer miserly rates of interest on offshore accounts, are not lacking for international clients. ''The rates of interest on offer from the big banks on current accounts maintained in credit are appallingly low compared with money market interest rates which are 5.875 per cent,'' said Mr Paul Tyndall, managing director of Tyndall Bank. In fact, many banks - especially for deposits of less than $120,000 - get away with paying less than one per cent. Tyndall, along with the Bank of Scotland and Robert Fleming Reserve, offers interest rates pitched much closer to money market rates which are available on a range of currencies. Such banks place their depositors' funds in the money market, rather than lending their deposits. This feature, coupled with the absence of a branch network to maintain, can help to avoid debilitating bad debt. ''Tyndall customers have consistently benefitted from the top rates of interest we achieve through our substantial presence in the money market,'' said Ms Fong. ''All interest is paid without deduction of any tax. And Tyndall's high interest money account provides a cheque book, which gives clients immediate access to their funds. ''There is no minimum withdrawal, so clients can write a cheque for any amount they wish,'' she said. Ms Fong said that people should also make sure that there was no service charge for issuing cheque books, and no charges for the number of cheques written. ''And when you issue a cheque, you benefit from the period required to clear it through the banking system and any delay in presentation by the payee, since we accrue interest on your account until seven days before the cheque is finally presented to us,'' she said. Alternatively, Ms Fong said that if the bank was given written instructions to make a repayment, interest accrued right up to the repayment date. To open an overseas account, individuals need just $2,000. Further deposits can be for any amount.