Do you really need to meet your financial advisor in person?

03/05/2022

Thinking back to the days before the Internet, all business was local. We would often visit our bank or the offices of our accountant. Financial advisors would visit at your office or even your house. One firm we know of even flew its salespeople in to meet prospective clients! But those are the old days. Today, millions of investors feel relieved, confident, empowered and good about their financial futures without ever meeting their advisors face-to-face. In the same way digital banks are fast replacing brick-and-mortar branches. It is no surprise that millions of people get their financial advice solely via the telephone or Internet too. We receive questions from expats from around the world. Every so often, they choose a local advisor over us. We can certainly understand the urge to look into the whites of their eyes. After all, you should be working with them for a very long time... (Not to mention putting your trust in them to guide your financial journey). But choosing an advisor purely so you can meet face-to-face brings a unique set of risks. Facts don't change our minds. Friendship does.

"Faced with a choice between changing one's mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy with the proof." - J.K. Galbraith

Why so few innovations become a commercial success? As humans, we are creatures of habit. We dislike change and resistance to it is human nature. Disruption conflicts with our established beliefs which historically we've relied upon for survival. It can alienate us from our tribe. What has this got to do with where your advisor is based? Consider the following:

1. Fiduciary: investor ratio

The earth's surface area is approximately 510 million km². You have 509,869,000 km² of expatriate living space in which you need to hope a well-qualified, regulated and ethical face-to-face advisor lives. The overseas talent pool for well-qualified financial advisors is very small. The number of regulated and transparent firms perhaps even smaller. The chances of you living in an area where you have face-to-face access to a highly regulated, knowledgeable professional is slim. The chances of both you and the advisor staying in that area (let's say within 500 km²) over the number of years a relationship exists... Is likely very small. Finding an independently certified fiduciary is not only the best thing you can do for your finances but the best way to ensure your peace of mind that your advisor is truly on your side.

2. Cost

Would you prefer to maximise your money? Or meet face-to-face? We are often asked to travel to Europe, Middle East, Asia, China and South America. These trips cost time and money, they are not free. Commission-based salespeople are normally happy to travel (even by plane) so they can either sell you a product, churn your funds or press you for referrals. Even if you think you're not paying - the products they vend more than cover these costs.Ultimately it is you who pay these costs through the often-hidden charges on these products and a second time through underperformance and a third time through exit penalties!Would you prefer seemingly 'free' advice from face-to-face salespeople OR to reduce your costs, increase flexibility and maximise your returns?After all, costs compound over time and diminish your returns.Communicating with your advisor through Zoom, MS Teams, Skype, WhatsApp or email costs nothing.It is software and technology you are already comfortable with.No time is wasted in transit.No incentive exists to re-coup sunken costs through hidden commissions.Chances are you've already conducted many business meetings this way already.With the same intentions to save on time and money.

3. Regulation doesn't work if you move countries

As an expat from country A and living in country B... You may move back to country A after a few years. Or move on to a new country entirely. The regulatory system will likely not support you and many people fall between the cracks. With a local advisor, you would have to find a new one in each country you're in. Making the process confusing and tiresome. An international firm will likely be able to work with you wherever you are in the world. The clients we have today, have comfort in knowing we are with them for the long haul. Whether they move to Spain, the UAE, China or Mexico... The relationship remains unaffected. We still vividly recall the first time a prospective client in Asia contacted us. He met a local 'advisor' who encouraged him to buy an offshore insurance bond packed full of junk but his plan was to live there for 3 more years and move back to The Netherlands. The salesperson knew this, yet kept singing the praises of this product which made our now client feel uneasy. Researching regulated advisors, he found us - and saw we offer free second opinions. We investigated his product and showed him the evidence... He would have paid the advisor an upfront commission of at least 12% and that is excluding the annual performance and management fees. After realising how 'easy' it is to choose the wrong type of 'advisor', he decided to work with us. Granted, the distance made him a little apprehensive at first but it didn't take long for the geography barrier to disappear. We are still able to get to know our client and provide them with effective advice and service just as easily over the telephone and through email as we can face-to-face.

Think about it... do you really need to hire a local advisor? Do you want the comfortable lies from a smooth-talking salesperson over a round of golf or a pint or do you want the uncomfortable truth from a professional who is dedicated to saving you money and maximising your returns so you can lead a better life? Should you limit your search to the local talent pool, denying yourself great advice and ultimately, better results? We are dedicated to helping you make more informed and effective financial decisions that allow you to feel relieved, confident, empowered and good about your wealth regardless of where you live. Hopefully you have now found value and understand some of the implications of choosing a local advisor. Not everyone will agree with our points and that's OK because we won't be the best fit for everyone but by being transparent about the subject we do hope you can make the right decision for your future.

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