The 6 most important questions to ask when appointing an international financial advisor

Insight | by Tom Tracy
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A checklist of the 6 most important questions to ask when appointing an international financial advisor

20 years ago, I set up Forth Capital with the aim of bringing a UK standard of financial advice to the international marketplace. I wasn’t trying to take the moral high ground – I just strongly believed that better client outcomes would lead to greater success.

Coming from a UK regulated background, I was shocked to see some of the egregious practices that were prevalent in the international market back then - and as evidenced by this last week’s headlines in relation to the advice company 'Brite' in Australia and in the USA, these practices, and the disastrous client outcomes that result from them, sadly remain an issue today.

In light of the news last week that the Australian Federal Court has ordered Brite Advisors Pty Ltd (Brite Australia) to be wound up, I felt compelled to draw up a checklist of the most important questions to ask, and key information to check, if you’re a British expat looking to engage a reputable, trustworthy international financial advisor or wealth manager – wherever you are in the world.

1. Is the advisor authorised and regulated?

Check that the advisor is authorised and regulated in your country of residence (as well as the country you’re moving to if you’re repatriating or relocating) and check their record with those regulators.

Research the financial advisor’s qualifications [often to be found on their website or their LinkedIn profile] and make sure that these align with the financial planning and wealth management areas of focus you require.

2. Are they dual qualified?

Engaging a financial adviser who is qualified in both the UK and in the country in which you are resident (or are planning to move to or retire to) will provide you with greater clarity and peace of mind. Their expertise and understanding of both markets will also enable them to deliver better outcomes and more value for you.

3. Is their fee structure clear and transparent?

The fee structure for your financial advice and the ongoing management of your investments should be simple and straightforward. There should be no ambiguous or hidden costs, and no exit charges.

Even in the UK, it is only with the advent of Consumer Duty that a number of outdated and pernicious pricing practices have had a light shone on them – so whilst this is not an issue that’s specific to the international advice market, it’s a fundamental issue to focus on when deciding whether or not to engage an advisor.

4. Can they provide you with positive client testimonials?

Client testimonials can provide valuable insights into the outcomes delivered for clients, and the level of service provided, but it’s obviously important to assure yourself that these are authentic.

If the testimonials have been registered via a service such as Trustpilot, it’s more likely that they’re genuine – and it can be a worthwhile exercise to compare the advisor’s overall Trustpilot Score with that of other advisors you may also be considering working with, as part of your due diligence benchmarking exercise. This process can quickly uncover red flag issues, and you might be surprised at how low these scores are for some companies.

5. Do they have a physical (global) presence?

Having a physical office in each of the countries where the company is authorised and regulated to provide advice can be a simple but effective benchmark of how well-established they are and a measure of their material investment in their advice business.

Moreover, an advice company with dual-qualified advisors in each of their international offices provides additional synergies, facilitating a more joined-up holistic service, enabling them to combine global insights with localized knowledge to deliver the best possible outcomes for you, and provide continuity of service and advice if you should move to another country.

6. How long have they been in business?

And as we mark the twentieth anniversary of founding Forth Capital, and I look back over two decades of making the complex simple for our clients, across more than 50 countries worldwide, my final checklist benchmark would be to establish the length of time that an advisory company has been in business, as a measure not only of their experience, but also of the sustainability and quality of their client proposition.

But even after all that, you can never be sure, and this is is far too important a decision to get wrong, so contact us - as having been in the international financial advice industry myself for over 25 years, and having run Forth Capital for 20, I know who’s who, what’s what, and what to look out for.

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