Choosing a financial adviser for your life abroad

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20.08.23
Choosing a financial adviser

Choosing a financial adviser is the first step to take when reviewing your wealth management for living abroad. This will provide a roadmap to guide you through the complex process, ensuring you capitalise on available opportunities and helping to protect you and your family against any nasty surprises.

There are various reasons why people take financial advice. It may be for help investing their savings or with their pension funds, or they may have questions about taxation or need to establish an effective estate plan.

What many do not realise, however, is that their choice of adviser is possibly the most important financial decision they need to make, especially when trusting their recommendations for the savings you’ve worked hard to build up.

This is even more important when moving to or living abroad.  Here, most people don’t just require help with one aspect or to buy a product, they need an adviser who can analyse their situation and guide them through all the financial planning steps they need to take to successfully manage their wealth in their new country of residence. Ultimately, we’re all looking for long-term financial security and peace of mind, but achieving this in a new country with a foreign tax and succession regime and unfamiliar bureaucracy is harder than in your home country.

You need a holistic strategic financial plan based on your situation and aims, then ongoing, proactive support as your circumstances evolve and regulations and investment climates change.

With all this in mind, here are some points to consider when looking for a financial adviser.

Choose a financial adviser that provides personal service

It is essential that your financial planning is based on your personal situation – your country of residence, future plans, family situation and concerns, who you wish to leave your assets to, your time horizon, investment risk tolerance, and key objectives.

Successful wealth management must take all these into account. Your adviser should take the time to get to know you, asking a range of questions and establishing your risk profile, before making recommendations or trying to sell you a product or investment.

You want to be able to build a good relationship with your advisers so they’ll be around to support you right through retirement, perhaps even guiding your heirs in the future.

Size and longevity

When looking for a long-term adviser covering a range of services, the size and longevity of the firm is relevant.

A firm with a history of longevity gives you peace of mind that they are likely to be there for as long as you need them.

And the larger the firm, the more specialists they will have covering the various services you need – local financial advisers, technical tax experts, pension professionals, investment analysts, and succession law experts. In-house teams can seamlessly work together to provide integrated wealth management advice and recommendations.

This is important. For example, how you hold your investments can impact how much tax you pay and how easily they can be passed onto your chosen heirs. So rather than using different advisers for each aspect and receiving isolated advice, you benefit from a comprehensive, strategic financial plan covering all of them.

A larger firm will also have more resources to apply effective compliance procedures to ensure regulatory rules are adhered to, which protects clients. It will also be in a position to keep on top of changing regulations, such as tax and pensions, analysing how clients are affected and establishing compliant solutions where necessary.

Local knowledge and advice

Using an adviser who lives and works in your country of residence will prove highly beneficial.

For a start, they will have personally experienced what it is like to move to and settle there and how the local taxation impacts residents.  They’ll have built up an in-depth understanding of the local tax and succession regimes – both very different to the UK’s – and the legitimate planning opportunities available there.  And they’ll be in a position to react fast to changes.

While you may prefer to continue your existing relationship with your UK adviser, it is unlikely they will know the ins and out of local regulations or keep on top of tax reforms. (In Spain it gets even more complex as the 17 autonomous communities have their own variations with regards tax rules.)  Continuing to use your UK adviser could result in you buying inappropriate investments, paying more tax than necessary, or your beneficiaries having to deal with unnecessary complications on your death.

Another important issue here is regulation.  Prior to Brexit, it was possible for UK advisers and financial firms to ‘passport’ their services into other EU countries. This ended when the UK left the Union, so unless your UK adviser has taken the time, effort, and expense of getting set up and regulated in your country of residence, they would not be in a position to provide authorised advice to local residents.

Regulation and qualifications

All the above considerations need to be combined with qualifications and high professional standards.  Investing, pensions, estate planning and taxation are all very technical subjects that require specialist understanding. Ensure your advisory firm has professionals with officially recognised qualifications, who keep fully up to date with financial and regulatory changes.

In the UK, for example, the Level 4 Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning meets the UK Financial Conduct Authorities (FCA) qualification requirements.  Even though you’ve moved abroad, you still want your adviser to have achieved that level of qualification.

Last but not least, for security and peace of mind, choose a firm that is authorised to provide advice in your country of residence and abides by national and international regulations. When it comes to investing, check that both your adviser and the investment managers they are recommending are regulated.

Once you find an adviser who meets the above requirements, the rest of your financial planning will follow smoothly on.  You won’t need to worry about neglecting any key aspects or keeping up with tax reforms. Your adviser will talk you through all the issues you need to consider, helping you weigh up all your options before you take any final decisions. They’ll then keep you updated on any reforms that impact you.

So you can leave the hard work to them and enjoy your new life abroad with peace of mind.

Choose the right financial adviser

At Blevins Franks, we meet all the above criteria and more.  With a history dating back over 45 years, we have long-established offices in Spain, France, Portugal, Cyprus, and Malta.  We have advisers living locally, some of whom have been with us for decades, as well as teams of tax, pensions, and investment specialists based in our London and Malta offices.

We pride ourselves on providing cross-border, integrated financial planning and a high level of personal service. While we are always meeting new clients, our team of Private Clients Managers is dedicated to servicing existing clients, ensuring everything is on track and fine-tuned to individual needs.

We are authorised and regulated to provide advice in the UK, Spain, France, Portugal, Cyprus, and Malta, and our advisers are qualified to the level, or equivalent, required to meet the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority standards.  We impose high compliance standards on our teams and keep up to date with regulatory standards.

Everything we do is client-focused, to provide peace of mind to you and your family.

Contact us today to arrange a personal consultation.

Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; individuals should seek personalised advice.

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