Dan Dobry
Dan Dobry

Key Concerns for Expats and International Families

Background 

Globalization is increasing and the world is becoming ever more connected, driven by companies expanding globally, technology companies importing specialized talent, and a growing open border policy by nations around the world.

Most professionals are locally trained and licensed and regulated in the country of their domain. The families they work with however in high probability are already global. Most professionals will choose to avoid the multi-jurisdictional issues and leave the client to seek advice in the jurisdiction of the asset or issue. However, a good professional should serve the family and not the family’s money. (who is your client? The client or the clients’ money?). And therefore look at the family’s challenges and understand the implications of owning assets and rights in multiple jurisdictions and how to build a plan that has the highest probability of being efficient legally and expose the client to the least possible tax exposure, to help them achieve in the highest probability their life goals. 

In developed countries, expatriates and migrants now account for almost 10% of the total population. The UN Population Division suggested that in 2013 (most recent year available)  232 million migrants lived overseas as expatriates. The USA is the most common destination, hosting 46 million migrant expats. The most common country of origin is India, with some 14 million Indians living outside of the country. The UK is the most diverse country in the world in terms of its migrant population, with migrants from well over a hundred countries.

An expat is defined as ” A person who has citizenship in at least one country, but who is living in another country”.

I feel that there is a need for an academic certification and community of professionals with a focus on cross border issues who work within a professional guild with a code of ethics, professional standards, and academic methodology to provide the international family worldwide the opportunity to work with a trusted advisor who will put his/her interests first. 

In addition to understanding the challenges of expats this new cross-border professional community will have capabilities to understand global issues for local clients such as clients investing overseas, clients with global businesses, clients inheriting monies or assets or rights of relatives overseas.

Key concerns 

People cross borders for many reasons. Additionally, temporary and permanent cross-border movements enhance the complexity of investment management and financial planning. The primary cause for this situation is that taxable and retirement assets are accumulated within multiple jurisdictions and include multiple tax compliance and logistic issues. Relocating, or investing overseas without proper planning often results in a disjointed financial plan that manifests into higher taxation, poor estate planning, and enhanced risk. It is important to recognize that significant differences exist between countries. when it comes to financial planning and investment matters. Individuals with cross-border planning requirements should review their situation with a team with proven comprehensive cross-border skills and knowledge to address their unique needs.

Advanced Financial Planning

Cross-border clients require specialized financial planning delivered through a personal relationship with a knowledgeable financial planner. Key areas of focus are:

  • Understanding investment platforms that are aligned with different juridical requirements.  
  • Understanding personal risk needs, capacity, and tolerance
  • Overall balance sheet review and asset allocation
  • Stock option and equity compensation analysis
  • Tax strategies and optimization of investment portfolios to maximize tax efficiency
  • Retirement readiness and financial projections
  • Review of real estate and other alternative assets
  • Advanced retirement planning related to estate planning, asset protection, and insurance, etc
  • Client Service and Administrative Support

Because of the complexities involved, cross border investors also require advanced knowledge or access to knowledge in: 

  • Purchasing property abroad: Understanding the challenge of owning property in multiple jurisdictions. 
  • Understanding Inflation: Understanding the impact of multi-jurisdictional inflation.
  • Understanding the challenges of International Banking. Opening accounts, managing accounts in home jurisdictions, understanding bank costs, and how banks think and work. 
  • Foreign Currency exchange. 
  • International Money Transfers.
  • Comparing international costs of Living.   
  • Global Anti Money Laundering 
  • Trusts and foundations.  

Investing 

This unique situation of families with cross-border challenges has led to an occurrence where cross-border professionals have very limited options to find sensible sustainable investment solutions. Many investment firms and large banks (all over the world) choose to avoid this market completely because they are ill-equipped and not staffed appropriately to service these clients.

New laws, focused not on protecting these clients but on taxing them make this challenge more complex. These laws are not completely even understood by lawmakers and are very open to opinion. 

Banks and investment firms think that relative to their core client base, the number of these client opportunities is small and come with a higher level of risk and reporting complexity, therefore mostly they are not yet looking at this market segment seriously. 

Compounding this lack of solutions is the movement by custodians and banks to exit this part of the industry due to the complexities involved, regulatory concerns, and other issues. New policies and procedures are put in place because of new regulations which are not allowing them to service these accounts, and are ultimately restricting all accounts that have a foreign address or a foreign citizen owner.

Estate Planning

Given the increased mobility of clients and globalization of assets, property at death may occur in several jurisdictions. This means that a great number of clients will require coordinated estate planning using multi-jurisdictional wills and separate situs wills (that is, wills concerning assets located in one legal jurisdiction (situs) and typically executed in that jurisdiction under its law).

Tax Planning 

There is also the trend of growing government transparency and information sharing, leading to new regulations and rules globally that impact tax planning; foreign financial institutions are now required to identify all clients with a “connection” to the U.S. (soon in additional jurisdictions) and to report details of their financial holdings. As a result, investors are rapidly changing their undisclosed accounts to fully disclosed accounts, which is only contributing to the rapid growth of investible assets in the cross-border niche.

Working collaboratively with fellow professionals 

Financial Planning has always been a profession of collaboration of knowledge and skills, with the financial planner taking the role of the relationship manager.  It is impossible to have all the answers to all the questions globally. A professional network of planners and professionals will have a significant impact on the cross-border professional and his business. 

About the Author
Dan Dobry was the founder of the Union of Financial Planners in Israel (UFPI), served as the first Chairman and President of UFPI. Dan was the Global Council Representative for Israel for the Global Community (FPSB) from 2012 - 2018 and from January 2019 is a member of the Committee for Standards and Qualifications for the European Union (SQC).
Related Topics
Related Posts
Comments