Ten questions to ask potential financial advisers
by Chas Begley
Head of Marketing at Infinity Financial Solutions
Welcome to life as an expat! The expatriate lifestyle has a lot to recommend it: exotic locations and new opportunities, a chance for self-discovery, broader horizons, travel, and adventure. It also provides expats in Asia with a genuine opportunity to get ahead financially while living abroad. The combination of higher disposable incomes and low tax investment and savings opportunities means that many expats will return home significantly wealthier.
This sounds very attractive, but in order to benefit, most people need professional financial advice. Therein for many lies the problem. You do not have to be exposed to the expat scene for very long before you hear a horror story or two about people who ended up with bad financial advice and lost a significant sum of money. To avoid this situation, it is critical to choose wisely when selecting an advisor. However it is not easy: you will likely find yourself being bombarded with offers, bashed by extravagant boasts, and bamboozled by unfamiliar financial terms that often confuse and mislead rather than enlighten.
In order to help in this decision-making process, we have put together the following list of 10 questions for you to ask to potential financial advisers in the hope that their answers will help you make an informed and intelligent choice.
1. Do you work for a regulated financial company?
Ensure any company you deal with is regulated and is legally obliged to follow strict rules and procedures.
2. Are you personally qualified to give financial advice?
You wouldn’t let an unqualified doctor perform surgery, so don’t appoint an adviser without internationally recognized qualifications.
3. Are you independent?
Many advisers are tied to particular product providers; this may lead to conflict of interest and will limit the choices open to their clients.
4. What are some of the financial product providers you recommend?
While you may not have heard of all the companies that an adviser might recommend, there should always be some internationally trusted names you recognize on their partner list.
5. Will your company ever have direct access to my money?
Financial advisers should do just that: advise. There is no need for them to be in a position to personally handle your money. Any claim to the contrary should set alarm bells ringing.
6. How will you assess my attitude to risk?
Everyone is different: some people are cautious with investments, while others are prepared to be more adventurous in search of higher returns. Avoid any adviser who cannot explain the principle of risk and how they will assess which risk level is appropriate to you.
7. Who will choose and manage my investments?
The management of savings and investments is highly specialized and not normally within the skill set of a financial planner. That means someone other than the adviser will be picking and managing investments. It is important you know who they are and what qualifications they have to do the job competently and effectively.
8. How long have you been advising clients on their personal finance?
Longevity in the business is not always a recommendation but, in concert with other answers, deeper experience may be of value.
9. Can you provide me with client testimonials?
Happy existing clients are always a positive indication of a good adviser.
10. Do you provide a written client engagement agreement?
Ensure your potential financial adviser offers a formal, legally binding contract.