Japan financial advice for expats; biggest mistakes

As some of my more frequent readers know, I have spent more time in Japan and China, than any other country apart from the UK.

After 8 years living overseas, what are the key mistakes I see expats make when it comes to financial planning, investing and business? 

The information below are the most common mistakes I have seen, and how you can mitigate them.

1. Keeping up with the Jones’ 

Japan isn’t as obsessed with consumption as Singapore, Hong Kong or Dubai.  Despite having more millionaires than any other city on some metrics (although not on a per capita basis), Japanese people aren’t flashy as a generalization.

That doesn’t mean a minority aren’t, or your fellow expats aren’t.  Many expats are on big packages, but remember that Tokyo is an expensive city, if you factor in the tax and rents. 

$200,000-$500,000 a year might sound like a lot of money to most people, but once you adjust for the taxes, cost of accommodation and sometimes international schooling, it can go quickly if you put your mind to it.

I have seen expats on 250,000-350,000 yen a month ($2,300-$3,300 or so) gradually increase their wealth, and others on $500,000 a year, who are in debt or have zero wealth!

Remember wealth is net income – expenditure x compounded returns. If you spend more than you make, to impress people you don’t even like, you will get into trouble.

So your spending and investment habits make a bigger difference to wealth than your income.

Just ask Mike Tyson, Boris Becker or Michael Jackson- having a super high salary isn’t an automatic passport to riches!

2. Not reviewing inheritance and estate planning

The Japanese Government can potentially tax you significantly if you die.  So planning is key if you are going to be a long-term Japanese expat.

This is especially the case considering these rules are always changing. 

3. Focusing on local real estate 

Real estate doesn’t outperform markets long-term, in most cities and situations. The biggest advantages of real estate are leverage and rental yields, but that has become harder to profit from in Japan.

There used to be a time when capital values were stagnant, but using Airbnb was a simple way to get good rental yields in Tokyo and beyond.

That has gotten harder with new government rules and restrictions. In general, unless you are a professional real estate investor, it is best to use real estate as a home or just rent. 

If you are in Japan on a short-term contract, renting makes sense. If you plan to stay for 20-30 years, then buying on a mortgage can be cheaper.

4. Not reviewing your existing investments   

Most expats in Japan have expat investments held offshore.  Some people are getting good returns, and some are not.

Markets have performed well for 10 years or longer, so your portfolio should be performing well as well. 

You should also review your pension situation in your home country, to see if you can limit tax.

For British people, and some other nationalities, there can be significant tax benefits to transferring a pension overseas.

This is especially the case for larger pension pots.

5.  Focusing on local solutions for your investments 

As somebody who has lived in Japan, I can say that it makes no difference where your advisors lives, in this day and age.

What matters is things like fees, how long you invest for, what you are invested in and how easily you can communicate with your advisor.

Some expats tend to localize too much and get used to overly conservative business norms, like focusing on face-to-face communication.

They meet an advisor at an event, or get recommended to use X and Y company, and don’t consider the alternatives such as an online advisor.

Ultimately an online advisor can do things more quickly, efficiently and cheaply compared to somebody with a big flash $30,000 a month office in Roppongi. 

That money comes from clients money.  If they are wasting time with endless chit chat, which tends to come hand-in-hand with face-to-face meetings, I doubt they can respond as quickly to your emails and inquiries as somebody who is using the latest technology remotely.

I should know.  I used to do things the old-fashioned way and know how inefficient it is compared to the alternative where clients can flick me a message on WhatsApp and I can reply within hours at most. 

6. Giving money to a partner 

Speaking about localization, unless your wife (or indeed husband) is financially qualified, there is no reason for them to look after the money.  

It makes sense for decisions to be jointly made, or for the wage earner to make those decisions with the help of an advisor.  

Giving money to a partner seldom works out well, and causes untold complications if you get divorced. 

Many expats, especially men, tend to justify this norm as being a Japanese traditional.  It may be a tradition to give money to your wife….that doesn’t make it rational.   

7. Leaving money in the bank 

The bank pays people 0% interest in Japan. This is lower than inflation and even lower than the US and some other countries. So you are losing money with this tactic.

Markets go up and down, but the long-term has always been good. As Buffett pointed out 1-2 years ago, $10,000 invested in the S&P in 1941, would be worth around $52m today!

For that matter, $10,000 invested in the early 1990s, would be worth $100,000 today.  There is no reason to be afraid of short-term fluctuations in the market, especially if you have government bonds in your portfolio.

8.  For business owners – not focusing beyond Japan 

As mentioned before, your wealth is net income – expenditure x compounded returns. For business owners, you have a great chance to increase your wealth, compared to a salaried employee. 

It isn’t easy in a stagnant market, however, so many Japan-based business-owners need to be enterprising.  Many fail in this regard and become insular. 

In Singapore and various places in SE Asia, it is normal for people to use their locations as a hub.  Business owners, who just live in location A, but target location B or indeed the world, from their laptops.

In Japan, 95%+ of expats seem to be either salaried employees, businesses focused on Japan or those focused on things like inbound tourism – Chinese and other foreign tourists who are coming to Japan on holiday. 

What I seldom see in Japan is enterprising people who use Japan as a base for global business.  

I have met a few.  I met one man who only came to Japan due to his wife being a local.  He uses Japan merely as a home – a nice and comfortable place to live.

He works from work, on his laptop, and doesn’t target the local market any more than any other market. Only 2% of his revenue comes from the local market.  

Likewise, for me, my location is irrelevant. That isn’t just words, I have gained clients in 27 countries (and 5 continents) in the last 12 months alone, and I haven’t focused on local markets since 2014. 

Not since 2014 have I gained the majority of my clients in the country where I was resident.  The fact is, we live in completely different times now with the digital age.

This isn’t just affecting business. Even 5-10 years ago, people would have found it incredible, to think that a man relying on Twitter, and being outspent by his political rival 2:1-3:1, could beat his political opponent in the Presidential Elections of 2016!

And then barely a few months ago, an enterprising 28-year-old Democrat, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, beat the 4th highest ranking Democrat by using online tools.

That could never have happened in the 1950s, 1980s, 1990s or even 10 years ago when this digital revolution was just getting started.

The digital age is affecting business as much as politics. The business practices from the last 200-300 years are changing. We are in the middle of different age, a digital revolution.  

The internet has been around for decades, but only in the last 5-10 years, are we doing more and more things online. 

What is the first thing you do now?  You Google probably, just as I do!  And unlike 15 years ago when we only trusted Amazon and eBay and big companies, these days people rely on online recommendations and the authenticity of a personal brand/relationship.  

When I am the buyer, the LAST thing I want to do, is takethe subway and meet you face-to-face. I want credibility through online recommendations. 

I want speed and accuracy. 20 online recommendations on LinkedIn matter 10x more to me than how you are dressed, or which office you work from.  

Many people feel the same.  And yet, perhaps due to Japan’s old-school culture, many long-term expats in Japan still focus on business cards, face-to-face communication, outdated rituals and only focusing on the local market.

I remember I had a chat with a country manager of a major MNC in Japan a few years ago.  He told me he doesn’t like to hire expats who have lived in Japan for more than 5 years, or especially 7 years.

The reason? They become less enterprising.  More conservative and localized. Try to avoid this trap.

So If you have a business in Japan, focus on the world from your fingertips, not one market with stagnant growth!  

Of course, not all businesses can be scaled online. Many can though.

8. Underestimating certain things 

Underestimating the cost of living, how much you need to save for retirement and how many years you will live in retirement, are mistakes made by expats in Japan and beyond.

It is easy to get into the habit of wishful thinking, but just remember we are also in changing times when it comes to medical technology.  

You may easily have 45 years+ in retirement!

9. Getting stuck in a rut 

Especially if you own your own business, executing ideas can be key. Ideas in isolation are irrelevant.  Execution matters. 

Effective execution becomes harder when you associate with negative and toxic people or get into regular habits.

I found moving from country to country every 2-3 years, and regularly speaking to people in different industries online, can help keep my brain fresh.  

Of course, this option isn’t available to everybody, but I have found some expats come to Japan full of energy and vigour, and soon become negative after 3-7 years.

That negativity can indirectly affect sales, business and even spending habits – a lot of the aforementioned bad spending habits is caused by boredom.  

10.  Putting all your eggs in one basket – especially illiquid assets 

Too many expats in Japan, or indeed globally, just invest in their business. Or just in property locally or back home. Or just in stocks.  

Realistically, you can’t rely on an illiquid asset in retirement.  If you get sick tomorrow, could you sell your house or business?

Especially if your business is highly related to your personal brand, contacts and skills, why would somebody want to buy that business, if you aren’t going to be around?

I have met countless people who have boasted to me about land, property or business valuations but have failed to sell those assets when they most need to.

It makes sense to have assets in relatively liquid stock and bond market portfolios, to limit the risks, whilst still gaining from rising markets long-term.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in your business. Reinvesting money into your business can have a great return on investment, especially when your business is small and growing fast.

But again, we are in changing times.  So cheap and free techniques can be more effective in 2019, than expensive options.

I know countless people today making more money from cheap Facebook ads than they do from $10,000 promotions.

I  also know many people who are able to make more money from writing articles, than they do going to events.  

Contact details 

adamfayed@hotmail.co.uk is my email and I am online on a range of apps.  My services range from monthly and lump sum investments, through to reviewing existing investment portfolios to see if I can offer greater growth. 

A range of client recommendations can be found online 

Financial advice in Dubai and Qatar: biggest mistakes and do you need a financial advisor?

Salary packages in Dubai, Qatar and other Middle Eastern countries can be high, for certain industries at least.

The region is also a hub for entrepreneurs.  Tax-Free living should theoretically make saving and investing vast sums of money easy.

However, I have met countless expats in the region who aren’t meeting their financial goals.  

In fact, about 25% of the people who reach out to me online, are living in the region. This article will consider why that is and give some general financial tips.

What are the biggest mistakes expats make in Dubai and Qatar?

Speaking to expats in the region, who often approach me after getting previously bad advice, or getting into bad habits, the following things are the most common mistakes;

1. Wanting a local advisor.

Whilst this is changing, as more and more things go online with financial services being no exception, some expats still want a local provider.

This means having a flash office in the centre of Dubai.  With a lot of admin support and other things. Ultimately, however, who pays for those facilities?

The client pays. An online provider can usually do things more cheaply, efficiently and quickly than somebody who is using old school methods.  

It is also safer in many ways. An online broker is much less likely to go out of business, compared to a firm with huge overhead. 

I have met countless firms who have gotten into cash flow issues, and the main reason is their $30,000-$50,000 per month office costs.

Let’s not forget as well, that you will probably leave Dubai or Qatar in the future.  Many expats move every 3-4 years, and want an advisor to follow them, whenever they are located.

So having an advisor who utilizes technology can be key.  Flicking your advisor a message on WhatsApp or email, wherever you are in the world, is much more convenient than old school ways of doing business for the time-poor.

2.  Not cashing out bad policies 

Nobody likes losing money or even declining markets.  Sometimes, moreover, a decline is temporary.   Look at 2008-2009. The markets crashed and came back strongly.

In other situations through the fundamentals of the investment are bad. This is especially the case with costly and opaque investment vehicles. Often times, cashing out and taking the hit, makes sense. 

I will give you a simple example.  Let’s say an expat invested in a $100,000 policy in 2012.  The value eventually falls to $90,000 in 2013-2014, despite rising markets.

The person eventually sells the investment in 2017, for $103,000.  At least they didn’t lose money, right? However, in that period, US Stock Markets increased by more than 10% per year on average. 

Selling out at $90,000 would have been painful, but many lower-cost investments would have made up the $10,000 loss, from taking the $90,000 in 2012, within 13-14 months. 

3.  Keeping up with the Jones’ 

Dubai and even Qatar to an extent have a materialistic culture. I was struck by how many people seemed to be showing off, the first time I visited Dubai in 2007.

Many expats get into the habit of spending money they don’t have, to buy things they don’t need and/or want, to impress people they don’t like or respect.

I have seen many expats on huge packages, who don’t save or invest $1, or even get into debt!  

4. Home country bias

It is human nature to be more reassured by the familiar. Psychologists call this familiarity bias.  Sometimes, though, it is a huge mistake.  This is especially the case with investing.

I am from the UK, as most of my readers know.  However, does it makes sense for me, as an expat of 8 years and counting, to keep most of my wealth in Pounds?

And to keep my investments purely in the UK FTSE100, UK property and UK Sterling?  Clearly not, especially with Brexit and the Tory Leadership contest going on, as we speak.

Familiarity bias also causes people to invest in local stock markets, as they become more familiar with the names listed on the exchanges.

In the case of Dubai or Qatar, there aren’t many good reasons to invest in the local markets, as opposed to the S&P50, MSCI World or numerous other indexes.

5. Speculation 

Trying to market time, stock pick and buy and sell coins, are all forms of financial speculation.  Being a speculator and a long-term investor isn’t the same thing.  

It is also a mistake to assume that only kids and irresponsible people invest in such schemes.

Investing in high-risk schemes like FX isn’t a scam in most cases, but is ultra high-risk.  Ultimately, people from all backgrounds can get into the extremes of greed or fear.

6. Not considering your tax situation 

Regardless of your nationality, it is important to remain tax-compliant. If you are American, you need to consider your tax situation when you invest overseas.

If you are British, you shouldn’t need to pay tax on your overseas income, assuming a few conditions are met.

You do need to pay tax on your UK sourced income, though, including any capital gains from property or markets.

Considering local taxes is also important, although the tax system in Qatar and Dubai is fairly simple and straightforward.

7. Thinking brand names matter

Most people like to feel safe.  That is human nature, but assuming that big brands are safer can be a big mistake.

I spoke to an expat in Dubai 3-4 weeks ago.  He is getting very poor investment returns, despite markets performing very well in the last 10 years.  

When I asked him why he picked the specific product, he said that the firm sounded like a huge name.

I won’t mention the name of the firm here, but it is one of the biggest insurance companies in the world, that offers insurance-linked investments.

Big brands can get away with charging more because they will still get clients regardless of their charging structure.

Often times boutique and specialist providers can offer better services, at offer costs.  This doesn’t just apply to finance, either.

I have certainly had better experiences with boutique hotels, recruitment firms and medical clinics than big brands and I guess you have too!  

8. Not considering your UK pension situation carefully

Many UK expats transfer their pension schemes overseas. Whilst there are many good reasons for this, including tax benefits, there are positives and negatives involved in transferring a pension.

For smaller pension pots, the fees for transferring the pension offshore can eat into the gains of taking action.

The investments that you are in, moreover, should also be considered. There is no point in transferring a pension offshore if your investment returns will be poor, regardless of the tax benefits.

9. Focusing on local property 

We have already spoken about familiarity bias and how it can affect investors. Property is another example of this.

Dubai and Qatar are not cheap property markets.  That doesn’t mean that you should never consider buying a property.

There will be plenty of people, especially professional real estate investors, who make a lot from property in the region.

If you plan to live in the region for 20-30 years, you may also just be using property as a home rather than an investment.

However, assuming renting is always dead money, is a key mistake.  Renting can be cheaper than buying as many academic studies have shown.

It is less time consuming as well. If your boiler breaks tomorrow, your landlord or the property management company will have to fix ir, and pay to alleviate the issue.

As time is money, and many expats are time poor, renting can make a lot of sense.  

10. Insurance 

Insurance is a necessary evil for most expats living in Qatar or Dubai. However it is a dead-money product.

It isn’t like an investment, where you are rewarded by investing more.  Therefore, you should spend as little as possible, for getting as much as possible.  

I have met several expats overpaying for insurance.  Getting a cheaper option on renewal makes sense.

When it comes to life insurance, you don’t need it, unless you have kids or plan to have them.  If you do have kids or a dependent, cheap term insurance is much better than the more expensive insurance-linked schemes.  

Insurance and investing should be kept separate, as a generalization. 

11. Leaving the money in the bank 

At the opposite end of the extreme to greed, fear can consume many potential investors, who are petrified by market volatility.

It is understandable because finance and investing can seem confusing for most people.  This isn’t helped by the media, who engage in sensationalism whenever markets fall.

However, leaving money in the bank, whether in Qatar, UAE or the UK, is a losing long-term strategy.

These days the banks pay close to 0%, and even if you lock away your money, beating inflation isn’t easy.

You can’t realistically, therefore, save your way to retirement, especially when you are living overseas, outside your home countries social security system.

So investing, as opposed to saving money, is important.  Long-term investing isn’t dangerous, even though markets are volatile.

The Dow Jones was trading at 66 in 1900 and hit 26,800 this year. $10,000 invested in the S&P in 1942, would be worth $50M in 2019, but there have been many bad times for markets.

Historically, you have a 28% of being down over a 1 year period, and a 72% chance of being up. 

That falls to a 10% chance of being down over a 10 year period and 0% over 20-25 years. In other words, a buy and hold investor, who doesn’t panic, has never lost in markets.

I am not implying that just because something has never happened before in the 200 years of markets being around, that it can’t happen in the future.

However, having your money in a combination of 3-4 major stock markets and the bond markets is a long-term winning strategy.

Markets are just the biggest firms in the world, after all. They do tend to get more profitable and efficient over time, due to technology.

12. Not factoring in purchasing parity 

Dubai and Qatar aren’t cheap places, despite the lower taxes.  It might sound obvious, but you need to consider the local cost of living.

I have met countless expats who have considered offers at the end of their 3-4 year contract.

Many do not consider the various cost of living implications and reject opportunities on this basis.  

I have one British client who didn’t want to earn $5,000 less per month, for relocating to Vietnam.

When we went through the figures, however, his ability to save and invest had probably increased, due to the lower costs of living.

Do most people need financial advisors whilst living overseas?  

I have met countless expats who have read a lot of financial books.  Some are time-rich as well.

Expat retirees would be one example or those who are semi-retired. Semi-retired consultants in the Middle East are another example.

On average, however, most expats are time poor and don’t feel they are experts in the area.  For those expats, financial advice is often useful.

Beyond investment advice, general financial planning advice can be needed.  Budgeting and financial plans seem simple, but simple and easy aren’t always the same thing. 

Simple tips like using cash more, and your credit card less, and writing down a budget unique to every month, can make a huge difference to your budget.

As an example, studies have shown that people who use cash more, spend 2%-5% less, without even trying. 

This is probably due to the fact that spending the money feels more painful when you need to give away something physical. 

Often times getting this third-party advice can be useful.

What are the costs of investment advice in the region and beyond?

Different advisors charge contrasting fees.  I charge 1% on smaller portfolios and 0.5% above $500,000.

As a generalization, the bigger firms (like life insurance companies and banks) charge much more.

What are your contact details?

adamfayed@hotmail.co.uk and a range of apps.

Further reading 

For expats with existing policies, including UK pensions, this article would be useful to read;



HSBC​ Expat Investment Review

I have many expat readers, and from time to time, I am asked to review certain providers. HSBC expat is no exception.

I get asked the following questions on countless occasions;

    • Should I invest with a bank?
    • Isn’t it more convenient to invest and bank with the same firm?
    • Are banks expensive for investing compared to platforms and currency apps?
    • Do banks tend to only sell their own products and funds?
    • Aren’t bigger names safer?

I will answer these questions in this article.

Where does HSBC operate?

Globally. Most of their expat clients are in Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Dubai, Qatar and other places with large expat numbers.

What is HSBC Expat and what services do they offer?

HSBC Expat used to be called HSBC International. They offer multi-currency bank accounts, fixed deposits various investment opportunities.

What are the account minimums?

60,000GBP, which is about $80,000. If the accounts fall below 60k, additional fees are charged.

This is a very substantial account minimum, considering that money could be better invested elsewhere.

HSBC do offer fixed deposit interest rates, but due to the global situation with interest rates, the rates are paltry.

What are the benefits of HSBC Expat?

Theoretically, they allow customers to move from country to country and stay in the same banking family.

They also cooperate with the accountants EY, and their global tax guides, which can be useful for some with complex tax issues.

The mortgage service also isn’t bad, but it always pays to shop around for better rates and deals.

Their general service levels are still better than some local banks, even if they compare unfavourably to more boutique expat-focused banks.

What are the costs?

The cost of the banking service (current account) isn’t cheap, but not extortionate. FX fees are 2.5%-3%. This is more expensive than Transferwise, but normal compared to other offshore banks operating from Isle of Man, Guernsey, Cayman Islands and Jersey.

International bank transfers cost 30-35GBP each time, even when done online, which is higher than normal.

Investment costs on the platform are high, due to a combination of fund costs, direct costs and a range of hidden fees.

Do HSBC Expat offer mortgages?

Yes. HSBC offers UK mortgages to expat investors. They no longer offer international mortgages, however.

Why bank offshore?

For me, and most expats, the desire for expat banking isn’t about secrecy. Sometimes I feel like the media are in a time machine.

Offshore banking these days isn’t like the 1970s, 1980s or even 1990s. It isn’t linked to tax evasion for most people.

It certainly isn’t about stuffing money in your trousers, before going on a flight, like in this scene from the Wolf of Wall Street!

For most investors in the 21st century, offshore banking and indeed investing is about diversification, convenience and lowering political and social risk.

For me, I want a number of things;

    1. To avoid emerging market banking, especially in unstable countries.
    2. To avoid black swan events, I want diversification in terms of banking options. Even though I come from the UK, which is a fairly stable country, I want to have non-British banking options……just in case the UK goes into political turmoil and elects a radical government. Or for that matter, Brexit causes 1001 problems!
    3. I also want speed and convenience, and not to have to open and close bank accounts every 3-4 years.

I am not alone. Many expats, especially in unstable countries, feel the same way. Take oil and gas as an example.

Expats in this industry are often sent to unstable parts of the world. Angola, Egypt and countless other countries.

Why would an expat, moving from emerging market to emerging market, want to entertain a local banking solution?

So what are the negatives with HSBC Expat?

Based on the above reasons for offshore banking, how does HSBC rank? Firstly, for me, a bank which is so international means more risk in certain situations.

HSBC, we have to remember, has some links to our governments back home, if we are from the UK, US and countless other countries.

The very fact that HSBC is so international means that they can come under political pressure at any moment.

A few years ago, HSBC reviewed accounts held by UK residents in Guernsey. These people aren’t expats.

Nevertheless, it shows that it can be easier to pressure a bank that is registered in the UK but has an offshore arm, compared to a truly offshore platform or bank.

That doesn’t mean that platforms or banks operating in just one country are perfect or without risk.

They still have to operate under various accounting reporting standards, moreover, such as FATCA for Americans and CRS.

Despite this negative, surely HSBC is more convenient than some options, due to their international flavour?

Well not really. Even though HSBC UK is a different entity to HSBC Japan or HSBC USA, the local regulators can put up barriers, and these barriers can also work against you.

It often isn’t possible to deposit an HSBC cheque in country Y, if it has been produced in country X.

Very normal, you may be thinking, but this hardly makes HSBC the world’s local bank, which makes everything convenient!

Countless other banks, moreover, have international services, even if they don’t have physical banks in numerous countries.

How about HSBC Investment Options?

Like most private banks, HSBC offers some very expensive fund ranges. So even if you use HSBC for banking, most of their expat investing accounts are best avoided.

There is a strong correlation between lower investment fund fees and better long-term performance.

Countless of the funds offered on the HSBC platform cost 1.5%, 2% or even 2.5% a year in fees.

HSBC does have some excellent index fund options available for UK investors, such as the FTSE250 tracker fund, which has 0.1% yearly costs.

These options, however, are seldom used on the platform offered to expats. They tend to be used on third-party platforms, alongside BlackRock, iShares and other providers.

This situation isn’t surprising. The largest institutions, with the biggest brand names, often get away with charging more money.

How about customer service?

Large organizations can lead to slowness and impersonal service. With HSBC, you are one customer out of 37 million!

So many expats claim that service levels are poor, even though HSBC preach about the benefits of getting a specific relationship manager assigned to your account.

What are some of the biggest mistakes investors make with big banks?

Given all these negatives about the big banks, why do many people still use them? Even though more and more people are becoming sceptical about big business and big government, some people still pick big brands.

This is despite the extra cost, slowness, poor impersonal service and so on. This can be blamed partially on familiarity bias.

Various studies have shown people are more likely to:

    • Invest in Google stocks, if they use Google search more often.
    • Invest in a company they drive by on the way to work.
    • Invest in the company they work for, and therefore doubling their risk if the company goes bankrupt.
    • Assuming that big name company stocks are safer than the broader market.
    • Invest in stocks only in their home market
    • Invest in stocks in the sector they work in
    • Invest in certain assets due to cultural familiarity. For example, gold for Indian investors or property for Singaporeans, regardless of whether this is rational or not.

Applied to HSBC, many people assume that service levels and investment returns must be excellent, due to the familiar sounding name.

This is usually not the case.

So in conclusion, should you bank and invest with HSBC Expat?

On the banking side, HSBC is OK. Better options exist, however. The costs, service and convenience could all be improved.

On the investment side, the vast majority of HSBC products on the platform are expensive and focused on HSBC in-house products and funds.

Most of these funds are not the low-cost variety, that tends to outperform, long-term. For these reasons, banking and investments should be kept separate as a generalization.

Do you offer banking services?

I offer banking services for existing clients, but not as a standalone product. It is too time-consuming to offer as a standalone product or service.

My main focus is on investment-related services, although I do not charge for banking services for existing clients.

What are your contact details?

adamfayed@hotmail.co.uk. I also am available on a range of apps.

Further reading

For expats with existing policies offshore the following article is useful;

Are portfolio bonds good investments?

The following article will introduce the subject of portfolio bonds and the positive and negatives associated with them.  I will touch on whether they are good investments or not, and what you should do if you have one, and are unhappy.

What are portfolio bonds?
Portfolio bonds aren’t linked to `bonds` in the typical sense of the word – they are not government or corporate bonds. They are umbrella products, that can hold almost any investment asset, and proportion to be tax efficient investment wrappers.

Portfolio bonds are typically offered by insurance companies in the expat market.  Many of these life insurance firms are usually domiciled in the Isle of Man, Guernsey, Jersey, Luxembourg, Dublin, Bermuda, Cayman Island and other tax efficient locations for expats.

Portfolio bonds are available in a wide range of currencies.  USD, Euros, British Pounds, Swiss francs and Japanese Yen are just some of the currencies on offer.

Where are portfolio bonds typically sold?
Worldwide.  However, they are sold more extensively in cities with many expats. Dubai, Amsterdam, Qatar, Singapore, Shanghai, Bangkok, Switzerland and Hong Kong are just a few examples of cities where portfolio bonds are typically sold.

What investments can be held within portfolio bonds?
Each provider has their own investment rule.  Numerous providers can accept almost any asset class, including;

Individual shares
Index funds
Mutual funds
Corporate bonds
Unregulated investments
Structured notes
REITS and other property related investments

How are portfolio bonds set up?
Typically clients need to produce anti-money laundering documents such as proof of address (dated in the last 3 months – such as bank statement or utility bill) and ID, alongside an online or paper application form.

After getting accepted and funding the case, you are a client of the life insurance firm.  The broker is just advising you, for a fee, and isn’t holding your money.

What are the advantages of portfolio bonds? 
For expats from numerous countries, there are some tax advantages. This is especially the case for British expats.

Portfolio bonds are usually tax-deferred, meaning that you can time your withdrawals to be tax efficient.
Often times, investors can take out 5% of a portfolio bond every year, without incurring tax penalty with the UK tax authorities, HMRC, up to a maximum of 20 years.

Many expats also use trusts to pass on their nest eggs to the next generation, in a tax efficient manner.
So portfolio bonds can be used as a legal way to minimize, or completely avoid, UK inheritance tax.

Furthermore, if you move back to the UK, the income on your investments are taxed according to your income.  So if you have moved into a lower tax band by this stage (in retirement) you may minimize your tax bills.

Australians investing in portfolio bonds also have some tax advantages.

What are some of the problems with portfolio bonds?
Whilst portfolio bonds can be excellent cost and tax efficient investments, they can have the following issues;

Costs– Some of the older and more well-established life insurance firms, tend to sell expensive solutions.  If you add in the management fee from the broker and fund fees, this all adds to cost.

Risky investments – structured notes, and some other risky investments, can destroy a portfolio, if not managed correctly

Because costs vary fantastically between brokers, life insurance firms, and funds within the bond, expat client A can be paying more than expat client B.
Let’s look at two examples;

Glenn, living in Dubai, invests $100,000 with a newer, cheaper, life company using the tax efficient wrapper.  He pays 1.2% per year costs + 0.1% for index funds.

He could be paying 3x-4x less, than David in Singapore, who is being charged 2% by a more traditional and expensive life insurance firm, 1% management fee from the broker + `hidden fees` from the investment funds.

Can expats move with their investments?
Yes, they can.  Usually, expats can move their investment with them.  Exceptions exist, and independent tax advice is sometimes needed.  As a generalization, expats moving to America should be particularly careful about continuing to contribute to investments, due to tax laws bought in since 2014.

Should Americans invest in portfolios bonds?
As a generalization, the answer is no.  In the last 4-6 years, the laws have become more and more restrictive for American expats.

This also applies to joint passport holders, Green Card holders and American taxpayers.

Portfolio bonds and SIPPS/Qrops 
People that have worked in the UK, even if they aren’t British, have often been advised to transfer their pension overseas.  Often called QROPS and SIPPS, this allows the formerly UK-based expat to transfer their pension overseas.

Whilst this does have numerous benefits, especially for bigger pension pots that would be subject to UK inheritance tax, some of the same issues exist here.

In particular, adding pension trustees to the equation adds an extra layer of fees; the trustee fees.  So investors now have the life insurance fee, broker charge, fund charges and trustee fees.

This can amount to up to 4%-5% a year in some cases.  Therefore, to make this structure worthwhile, investors usually need to:

– Invest with cheaper funds and indeed life insurance firms to minimize costs
– Have an investment pot worth 150,000GBP or more to make the fees worthwhile.  As some of the fees are flat fixed fees, the charges are too expenses on smaller accounts.  Ultimately, a 1,000GBP trustee yearly fee is 2% of a 50,000GBP account, but 0.1% on a 1million account.

Are there usually charges for getting out of a portfolio bond?
Yes.  When a portfolio bond is set up, an establishment fee is typically applied.  This establishment fee is gradually applied against the policy.

So for example, if an establishment fee of 7%-8% is applied against the policy, you may be charged 1.2% over 10 years.

If you want to withdraw, you can usually take out 70% or more of your policy, free of charges, assuming that you keep the minimum balance in the account.

So on a $100,000 account, you may be able to withdraw $70,000 or more, on day 1.  A charge will apply on the remaining balance, of $30,000 in this case.

This charge will apply on a sliding scale.  In year 1, a 10% charge on the $30,000 may apply ($3,000), and the charge will gradually be reduced over the 10 years.  This is merely an example, as each provider has different rules and regulations.

Beyond that, some funds within the bonds have minimum investment periods and lock in, whilst other funds have no charges for getting out.

Is there a maximum amount I can withdraw from the policy?
Yes.  Some providers have a $20,000 minimum, whilst others have a higher minimum.

If I am unhappy with my offshore portfolio bond, what can I do?
There are a number of options.  You can either exit the bond entirely, change the investments and/or transfer to another broker, who will hopefully manage your portfolio in a better way.

Have you ever taken over people’s portfolio bond investments?
Yes frequently.  In fact, as per the article at the bottom of the page, many people approach me with underperforming existing investments.

Can I invest directly, without a broker?
Some portfolio bond providers allow you to self-invest. Others do not. It depends on the provider and its rules.

If I decide to top-up my existing policy, can the charging structure for the additional premium be different to the initial premium?
Most providers allow different charging structures for top-ups. So if a 7% establishment charge was implemented on day 1, as an example you can pick a lower charge for top-ups.

Will the policy become cheaper over time?
Yes.  After the establishment charges are all paid for (after year 5, 8, 10 or 14 typically – again depending on the provider and the charging structure chosen) you no longer have to pay the yearly fee associated with the establishment charge.

That doesn’t mean it has become a free policy, of course.  It has merely become cheaper.  Fund and broker fees still apply, which can cost from 1%, all the way up to 5% a year, if you include hidden fees.

When are the charges taken out? 
Some fees are taken monthly, and others quarterly and yearly. Most are quarterly or yearly.

Are portfolio bonds good investments?
It depends on many factors, including your tax situation and how you are invested. As per the article below, some of the old-school providers offer products which are expensive.

This tends to eat into the benefits, including tax benefits, of the product.  In comparison, a small percentage of portfolio bonds are good value, especially if you are invested in low-cost funds, such as index trackers.

As a generalization, some of the newer providers are cheaper, as they can’t rely on brand names to sell expensive products.

What are your contact details?

Further reading 

For those with existing portfolio bonds, and SIPPS/QROPS, you can read the review article below. The article is especially useful for those that aren’t happy with existing returns.

Expat savings plans and portfolio bonds reviews: Zurich Vista + RL360 Quantum/PIMS + Friends Provident + Old Mutual executive/redemption bonds

Prudential International Investment Portfolio Bond Review

(Quick note; for a more in-depth review of Prudential and similar plans, alongside customer reviews and questions at the bottom of the page, please visit here – https://adamfayed.com/zurich-vista-review-rl360-quantum-friends-provident-hansard/). 

Who is Prudential?

Prudential is a financial services, and life insurance company, with product offerings in areas such as life cover, savings plans and lump sum. The International Portfolio Bond is a lump sum premium.

Where is Prudential sold?

They are sold worldwide in Dubai, Qatar, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, China and other expat destinations.

Compared to RL360, Hansard and a few others, Prudential isn’t as widely sold in the expat market.

In fact, they cannot be sold in numerous markets.

What are the minimums?

Prudential have very low minimums of $25,000, 20,000 Euros or 15,000GBP.  Top ups come with the same minimums – for example, 15,000GBP is the minimum top-ups for the British Pound Accounts.

What are the fees and general terms and conditions?

The charges are taken out for as long as 10 years and aren’t very transparent. The reason is that the charging structure that is chosen (commission-free or with commission) can mean that client X is paying more than client Y for the same product.

In general, the charges are:

  • Establishment charge of up to 5%. This charge lasts for 5-10 years, often working out at 1%+ per year. This charge goes down to 0% after this time.
  • Fund charges, which can be anything from 0.1% to 3%, but typically 1.5% on most actively managed funds
  • Admin charges.
  • Broker management fee charge – typically 1%.

This plan isn’t the most expensive in the market, therefore, but it also isn’t cheap.

What’re the positives about the plan?

1. You can earn more than in the bank even with high costs

2. It isn’t as high cost as some options but is still expensive

What are the negatives about the plan?

1. It is expensive, especially if the most expensive upfront costs are taken on day 1.

2. The investment choice is limited. PruFund Range of Funds and the Dynamic Portfolios and Dynamic Focused Portfolios are both available.  However, the number of low-cost funds available is limited.

3.  Many high-risk and high-fee funds are used in tandem with this product. This often leads to losses.

Are there charges for getting out of this product?

Yes, there are, but it depends on how much you want to withdraw.  On day 1, most clients can withdraw 70%+ or more of their money, without penalty, assuming the funds are liquid funds, which can be sold relatively quickly and without penalty.

Just because the provider allows penalty-free withdrawals, doesn’t mean there aren’t charges for getting out of the investments chosen within the platform.

If there are charges for getting out of the product, what can I do?

It depends on each case. In some cases, reducing the management fee and fund charges can make a difference.

For instance, if somebody has already been invested for 10 years, the establishment charge doesn’t apply any longer.

In such cases, simply reducing the other fees, could increase performance.  For many other clients, however, it is possible to get the same funds, for a cheaper price, with cheaper platforms and providers.

This will make a big difference over time. If you have $100,000 in your account and markets go up 8% per year, for the next 5 years, you are only likely to get 4% per year returns in this product, due to the numerous charges.

What can you do if you have a Prudential policy offshore?

If you have a policy and would like a conversation please contact me via adamfayed@hotmail.co.uk, I can’t promise anything – only to try my best.