Exclusive interview: deVere’s Founder and CEO
Nigel Green comes out fighting against FATCA
News • Analysis • Video • Features
Why International Investment has decided to produce the ezine you are reading and what the new platform means to you
Product, economic, company and jurisdiction news updates from around the globe, including a special video interview with RL360O’s David Kneeshaw
In a rare and revealing video interview at his company's Malta administrative back office deVere founder and CEO Nigel Green talks FATCA, regulation and the company's plans for the future
The British Overseas Territory emerges from the deep political waters of a hotly-contested election to renew its push for major financial centre status
Interview and audio podcast featuring Aberdeen Standard Investments MyFolio head Bambos Hambi
A listing of some of the biggest
players in offshore financial services
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A message from our editorial team
“Having asked our audience if they would like to receive content in a digital format… the answer has been an emphatic ‘Yes!’ ”
– Jonathan Boyd, editorial director, Open Door Media
As readers of International Investment, you will know that this is a title that has always gone the extra mile to bring you expert insight into developments as they affect the international wealth management and IFA community.
Now, we are redefining the ‘mile’ itself.
That may sound slightly outrageous, but having asked our audience if they would like to receive content in a digital format, which facilitates embedding of audio and video, expanding charts and social network links, the answer has been an emphatic ‘Yes!’.
We are therefore not so much beating our own drum as responding to the message that has echoed our way.
And this means that we are extremely pleased to be able to respond with the first of our ezines – publications distributed on a platform that allows for greater flexibility in production, and which allow you, the reader, to follow trails of information in ways that would never be possible in print.
Our International Investment ezines also align with our web and email presence in a more efficient manner. Further developments are coming, but for now welcome to the future!
As International Investment moves from its monthly printed magazine format to its new hybrid digital format, it is hard to think of a better subject to be our Big Interview than that of deVere CEO and founder Nigel Green.
Using our new ezine format we have been able to bring you, our readers (and viewers) a revealing video feature packed with editorial exclusives from when I interviewed and filmed Green at deVere's administrative office in Malta.
International Investment is proud to have been given exclusive behind-the-scenes access to one of industry's most compelling and often heavily-criticised figures. We hope that you enjoy the results.
We also bring you the latest international news – including a video news item regarding RL360O’s plans for further international growth as it makes plans to bed in its recent FPI acquisition. We also have a special report from the Cayman Islands and a look at Standard Life Investment’s MyFolio multi-manager team’s plans for international expansion.
With predictions of up to 80% of all online traffic set to be video-related by 2020, one thing is certain: video is here to stay. And here at International Investment we aim to mix this medium alongside traditional online media to bring you the best interviews, features and stories that matter to you. Please use the social media links to let us know what you think.
“With predictions of up to 80% of all online traffic set to be video-related by 2020, one thing is certain: video is here to stay”
– Gary Robinson, Head of Video for Open Door Media and Deputy Editor of International Investment
Round-up of the latest news from around the globe
Singapore's Fullerton gets China private fund management licence
Fullerton Fund Management, a Singapore-based subsidiary of Temasek Holdings with an outpost in Shanghai, has been approved to receive a private fund management licence (PFM licence) from the Asset Management Association of China.
With the PFM approval, Fullerton is now able to offer onshore investment products to institutional and high net worth investors in China, Fullerton said in a statement.
Furthermore, Fullerton noted that it is the first Asian fund house to successfully register its already-existing wholly foreign-owned enterprise, or WFOE, with the AMAC as a private fund management company. It first established its China footprint in 2007, with a representative office in Shanghai, housing onshore equity analysts.
As reported in International Investment on 8 September, the Shanghai-based, wholly foreign-owned enterprise of the London-headquartered, LSE-listed Man Group asset management company has also been awarded a private fund management license by the AMAC.
The awarding of the private fund management licenses comes as western asset managers seek access to the relatively untapped Chinese market, even as Chinese authorities seek to stem the flow of Chinese wealth overseas.
In its statement, Fullerton said it had expanded its China team to 11 from six employees last year, and that it planned further investment in its local office and to “grow the number of employees to cover investment, sales, trading, compliance and management functions”. HB
Singapore Skyline. Singapore`s business district, marina bay and the garden by the bay (Shutterstock.com)
ISLE OF MAN
Kneeshaw outlines FPI acquisition details
RL360O chief executive takes International Investment behind the scenes of the FPI acquisition.
In this special video report, below, from RL360O’s Isle of Man headquarters we speak to David Kneeshaw about the company's recent purchase of Friends Provident International from Aviva.
Fidelity Int’l arm unveils China Healthcare fund
Fidelity International has launched a China Healthcare fund, via its global venture capital subsidiary.
The US$250m China Healthcare fund has been launched to focus on therapeutics, healthcare services, healthcare IT/digital health, and MedTec by Eight Roads Ventures, the proprietary investment arm of Fidelity International.
This is the fifth fund, launched by the venture capitalist with the first four China funds all including a strong healthcare remit.
Eight Roads Ventures, said in a statement that it also plans to launch a China-dedicated technology fund. The China healthcare fund will allocate 40% of the capital in therapeutics, betting on what it believes will be a boom in innovative drugs in China.
Beijing has been initiating ambitious policy reforms to invigorate healthcare, part of efforts to meet rising demand for quality medical services.
China has forecast total healthcare spending will surge to 8 trillion yuan (US$1.2trn) by 2020, as the country tries to cope with a boom in its ageing population.
That has created a number of investment opportunities in the region. Shuang Rongqing, a veteran private equity investor, last month launched a US$150m cross-border medical device fund aimed at tapping into China’s demand for overseas high-tech medical equipment.
Eight Roads Venture has backed innovative China healthcare companies since 1995. During this period, it has invested in more than 100 healthcare companies, over 30 of which are in China, it said. GR
ISLE OF MAN
IoM’s Hansard and Fidelity co-launch risk analysis tool for advisers
Hansard International, the Isle of Man-based financial services business, has launched a new online tool to help financial advisers analyse retail clients' attitude to risk, it was announced earlier in September.
The software has been developed in association with global asset manager Fidelity International, whose portfolio of products are available through Hansard.
The tool works by asking the client ten very straightforward questions that will paint a picture of their attitude to risk when it comes to investments.
The answers will generate a risk score, with six different profiles in which the client will be placed, with one completely risk-averse or “cash only”.
Are clients attitudes to investment risk changing amid the changing political backdrop?
Each of the five other profiles, or score groups, is linked to a Hansard International Fidelity model portfolio with varying degrees of risk.
Gareth Maguire, head of propositions and marketing at Hansard International, said: “Our goal was to develop a solution that cuts through the complexity of the many other tools on offer, whilst providing a menu of funds managed by one of the world’s biggest and best asset management groups.”
Hansard pointed to the fact that the portfolios offered were selected by Fidelity's multi-asset team, ensuring consistency across the portfolios when comparing a client's attitude to risk, something that is not necessarily the case when comparing similar tools that provide access to portfolios from multiple providers.
International Investment tried the tool and generated an attitude-to-risk score of 345, slightly above average in terms of tolerance of risk. This matched an attitude-to-risk score with Fidelity’s HIL Fidelity Growth USD portfolio, which has a 60/40 equities/bonds split and is suitable for investors looking for long-term growth. EC
Zurich names Huber as CEO for its int'l business
Zurich has joined together its operations in the Middle East, Isle of Man and its Corporate Solutions (including Zurich Eurolife) as one team.
Peter Huber has been named as the new chief executive of Zurich International, Zurich International Life in the Middle East and Isle of Man and Zurich International Corporate Solutions (including Zurich Eurolife).
Reporting to Patrick Manley, chief executive at Zurich Insurance plc and chief administrative officer for Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA), Huber will work closely with the international business teams in three of Zurich’s key markets, including its largest international market, the Middle East, the company said in a statement announcing the changes.
Huber was previously chief executive of Zurich Global Life, Singapore from July 2013-August 2015 before he took over as president of Zurich Topas Life Indonesia from August 2015.
Walter Jopp, chief executive Zurich – Middle East will now report into Huber as a result of the changes.
Baker leaves post
Zurich International Life’s chief executive Clive Baker, based on the Isle of Man, is to depart the company after five years at the helm, Zurich has told International Investment.
The announcement came on the same day as it was announced that Baker had been replaced by Peter Huber as a result of joining together its operations in the Middle East, Isle of Man and Corporate Solutions (including Zurich Eurolife) into a single entity.
Zurich said to International Investment: “The announcement is an example of organised succession planning in Zurich, with Clive Baker deciding to move on after having completed five years as CEO, and Zurich rotating Peter Huber from a CEO role in another international market.”
Zurich told International Investment that any suggestion that Baker's departure was abrupt was unfounded, saying: “Clive has not abruptly departed and is still at Zurich International Life as part of a planned and smooth transition to Peter who [started] on 18 September.” EC
Peter Huber, Zurich International
Wider FSCS net gives more Harlequin investors hope of compensation for bad advice
More people are now likely to have a claim for bad investment advice in relation to Harlequin investments, following a review by the UK’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).
The scheme is already paying claims against firms for negligent mortgage advice and pension-switching where the underlying investment was in a Harlequin resort, the FSCS said in a statement published on its website.
The statement said: “FSCS is now widening the net to include claims for negligent advice to invest directly in Harlequin after new evidence obtained through its recoveries action shows the products are likely to be unregulated collective investment schemes. This means they are designated investments for regulatory purposes and qualify for FSCS protection.”
As a result, the FSCS said that this paves the way for more people who may have been mis-sold a Harlequin product by their financial adviser to make a claim for compensation.
The Harlequin Buccament Bay resort development scheme (pictured above) on the Caribbean island of St Vincent, fell into a series of difficulties and court wrangles that left a large number of investors across a range of products facing prospect of losing some, and in some cases potentially all of their investments.
Harlequin has been investigated by the Serious Fraud Office after some developments were never completed. There has also been some controversy about the levels of commission paid to advisers.
Anyone who thinks they may have a valid claim should contact the FSCS for more information. GR
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
UAE announces 5% VAT rate in co-ordinated move with other gulf states
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is to introduce a value added tax (VAT) levy from January 2018 for the first time — but is softening the blow by setting the rate at what it says will be one of the world's lowest.
UAE finance minister Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also deputy ruler of Dubai and chair of the Federal Tax Authority, said the rate has been set at just 5%, low compared with rates in, say, Europe that average around 20% as with the UK. Switzerland at 8% has Europe's lowest, with Hungary the highest at 27%.
He described the new tax as becoming "the bedrock" of the UAE's planned taxation system, and revealed that the move is happening in concert with the five other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman — and will be rolled out in tandem across the region.
The move is being seen as another step in the development of alternative revenues for the state to reduce over-dependency on oil revenue as export markets look to clean technology and renewable forms of energy.
“The new tax system will provide extra support for the government to implement the vision of the UAE leadership and build a diversified and productive knowledge economy,” he added.
“The tax will have positive results on the economy given that revenues will be redistributed to development projects that benefit society at large and accelerate progress until the UAE reaches the top of global rankings across all sectors,” said Hamdan.
The Ministry of Finance said in a statement that that all supplies of goods and services will be subject to VAT at a standard rate of 5% with the exception of specific supplies for which a zero rate will be applicable.
Zero rating will apply when goods and services are being exported outside the GCC and to international transportation of passengers or goods, supplies of crude oil and natural gas, and to education and health services. Precious metals such as gold are also to be zero-rated. EC
Mexico gives nod to new stock market
The Mexican government has formally awarded a concession to a new, second stock market, in what is being seen as a bid to generate new investment in the country's businesses and increase the number of investable entities there.
In a statement, the company behind the new stock market, Mexico City-based Central de Corretajes (CENCOR), said it would "contribute to the growth and modernisation of the securities market", fueled by "the latest technology powered by Nasdaq".
The New York-based securities exchange operator will supply the new Mexican exchange with its X-stream trading platform – widely used by stock exchanges around the world, CENCOR said in its statement.
The new exchange is expected to begin operating in the early part of next year, CENCOR added.
The new market will be known as BIVA – Bolsa Institucional de Valores – and it is expected to target small and mid-cap companies.
The concession to allow BIVA to begin trading was formally handed to CENCOR president Santiago Urquiza by Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, in a ceremony held at the National Palace in Mexico City.
On the first day of operation all publicly-held securities in Mexico were listed on the new BIVA exchange and Mexico’s established stock market, the Bolsa Mexicana de Valores (BMV), Latin America's second-largest by assets. It was founded in 1933, and is also in Mexico City. HB
Monumento a la Revolución, Republic Square, Mexico City (Shutterstock.com)
The Big interview
deVere's Nigel Green speaks out
Nigel Green, is one of the international financial world’s biggest names. An individual that is no stranger to controversy and is certainly not afraid of a fight – he is difficult to ignore.
But as chief executive and founder of deVere Group, one of the world’s biggest IFA firms with outposts across the globe, his biggest challenge, perhaps, is not against regulators, disgruntled former employees, or, in the case of his fight against FATCA, the US government, but against the ticking clock…
Gary Robinson spent a day with Green in the company’s Malta administrative centre, as the company’s recent comprehensive restructuring period beds in, and found him in a reflective but typically combative mood.
Nigel Green, deVere Group
Nigel Green is not your typical financial adviser and the deVere Group is not your typical financial advice firm. It is difficult to pigeonhole deVere as it is an international financial firm with its own private bank, mortgage company, investment proposition which also now has an online cross-border e-money app.
2017 has certainly been an interesting and intense year for the firm and for the offshore industry in general – in certain ways it has been even more intense than ever, despite the lack thus far of an event equivalent to last year's Panama Papers scandal.
Green, however, looks fresh, relaxed and possibly quite chipper, as International Investment sits down to begin his video interview on the spectrum of business opportunities and challenges as he sees them.
So, first up, how does he manage to stay abreast of everything that goes on within the deVere Group and, given the intense scrutiny of financial firms by various financial services regulators, how does he manage even to get to sleep at night?
Remarkably, a typical day for Green starts at about 3am, he says: a time that only milkmen and radio breakfast show disc jockeys also rise. So perhaps sleeping shouldn’t be an issue in the evening after such an early start.
He has his exercise routines and is working by 4am-4.30am.
“I am working across different time zones so this suits me,” says Green.
“We have a strong presence in Asia. We go all the way to Australia. The time zones are massive. If I start too late in the day I miss the start of their day and that is the last thing that I want.
“I find it easy to get up in the morning but I I find it difficult to go to bed late. (He admits that he rarely stay up past 9pm, unless, perhaps that his beloved football club Chelsea FC are on TV.)
Nigel Green on...
... his biggest industry regret and what makes him most proud
“So, there, that’s my weakness already,” he adds, smiling.
Open and revealing
It is now about 9am in the morning and Green has already done five hours work just as the interview gets going.
In agreeing to do this Big Interview with International Investment, Green said that he will answer any questions that are put to him – no matter how difficult.
And he doesn’t disappoint. While never speaking about individuals or clients – or anything bound up by legal complexities – he is happy to discuss his career to date, challenges with regulators, battles with disgruntled ex-employees and one of his biggest fights, against the US government’s FATCA ‘double taxation for expats’ rule.
He is also open and revealing when asked about his personality traits, his strengths and weaknesses and most of all what drives him, on a daily basis.
In a challenging year, one of deVere’s biggest hurdles has been the amended QROPS legislation that saw an immediate 25% levy added to pension transfer business from the UK to countries outside of the EU.
It was a move that certainly took the industry by surprise. And it was particularly hard on deVere, as QROPS represented about 20% of its business.
As a result, Green brought forward a strategic review of the company, which had already been in the planning.
“Culture is vital for any company. It is the CEO’s job and then the CEOs of the local businesses to ensure that the culture is right. I don’t allow people to work for me I don’t enjoy working with”
– Nigel Green, deVere Group
The QROPs change could have been seen as a hammer blow to any business reliant on the revenue that it can generate.
Indeed, STM, the London-listed cross-border product specialist saw its shares drop on the announcement.
Interestingly Green was a major shareholder in that business until earlier this year, when he sold his last remaining 2% stake.
He originally acquired a 24% stake for £1.59m in the Gibraltar-based product provider in 2012. In 2015, he relinquished his then majority stake, selling more than 6.7 million STM shares, at a time when the share price was rising.
Green added that the sale of his last remaining shares in STM freed-up resources to allow deVere to "concentrate more fully on developing and expanding" its fintech business.
It is clear to anyone that Green meets that his new passion is the deVere Vault banking app, which is described as a key fintech development. Indeed, he cannot help demonstrating the app that allows immediate cross-border, multi-currency transfers of cash anywhere in the world, to anyone that he meets.
However, that is jumping ahead. Returning to the firm’s dealings with
the regulators around the 25% QROPS transfer levy, Green insists that the move has not affected the deVere Group’s focus.
Nigel Green on...
... whether or not adviser fees are justified
He is also happy to discuss how the company is working with the regulator on the 166 notice that was served on deVere and Partners UK LTD [by the FCA] and a host of other pension transfer specialist advisers earlier this year.
“It is difficult to give cross-border advice, so I think it is difficult as a financial adviser to look at a different country’s rules. And I am going to say it is difficult as a regulator to regulate cross-border advice.
“If we look at pensions, say you have a UK pension and that is with someone living somewhere else in the world, and say that they then want to move. Then you have three regulators involved. So, it is difficult for advisers to give that advice. Advisers have to take legal advice. You have to get it right for the client and legally right.”
It has been some months since the FCA applied the S166 and, at the time, deVere UK were singled out for a certain amount of criticism in some quarters for the situation.
NIgel Green on...
... his biggest challenge
Since then it has been reported that up to 90 or so companies have also been put under the same scrutiny.
“In this particular market we had no client complaints,” says Green. “We started the process [in the first place by approaching the FCA]. This is what upset me. We, well, deVere UK, wrote to the regulator asking the question: 'Are our processes correct?'
"The regulator in answering our questions felt that we didn't have the right process. We had taken [at the time] legal advice and our lawyers assured us that the process was correct and they still do but settling the issue has cost a lot of money, Lawyers always do.
"Who wrote the law in the first place? If up to 90 different firms misunderstood the rules as well as their legal teams then its clear the rules are perhaps opaque."
This is just one example, Green says, of the types challenges in today's world that all financial advisers have to face, particularly those that deal with cross-border advice.
"I would certainly would not criticise the FCA or any other regulatory authority in areas in which we operate," he adds. "I don't think they singled us out. The FCA have a duty to do their job just as we have a duty to do ours.
Nigel Green on...
... FATCA and taking the fight to Washington
“And whatever happens with this, and I still think that we have followed the right advice, then we will learn from it and improve and move on.”
Moving on is not an issue for Green. Indeed, it is perhaps one of the things that defines him.
As he says. he moves on very quickly from difficulties and arguments onto the next task, without holding onto long-standing prejudices.
When it comes to the US government’s controversial FATCA double taxation rule though, he senses the opportunity to stand up on the soap box and is happy to wax lyrical on the subject.
There are three large green canvas photographs with quotations displayed on the wall behind Green in his Malta office. One is of Nelson Mandela, the other is of Winston Churchill. The third, perhaps the world’s most controversial figure – current US president Donald Trump.
“That has been there for a while,” he says, laughing. “But as a businessman, I’d say that Donald Trump did quite well for himself.”
Not adverse to criticism himself, when we spoke to Green earlier this year he was happy to discuss some of the claims outlined in the undisclosed South Africa commission admission row with Moneyweb (on its website there were various individual cases outlined).
Since then he also been another court case in the region, involving a row with a former employee leading to a judge ruling in favour of the employee, which the company is now appealing.
Nigel Green on...
... increased industry scrutiny
Once a person crosses Nigel Green, there is definitely a ruthless streak. This is often something that defines him in some people’s eyes. But there are many sides to this individual.
“When it gets to that stage [when he is about to part company with an employee], I am more likely to ask you to leave quickly by the window, rather than by the door,” he says.
A born-and-bred Eastender (born in West Ham, although he does not reveal the year), Nigel Green is a typically confident and streetwise Londoner.
Nigel Green on...
... a typical day
And despite a slim demeanour he appears as if he can ‘look after himself’ if needed.
Indeed, when asked whether he has ever felt the need to employ a bodyguard in some of the more dangerous corners of the globe – particularly given his public profile as a successful member of the global financial services community – he explains that he has never really felt that he needed one.
One wonders, does he ever worry about kidnapping, for example?
NIgel Green on...
... defining deVere’s culture
To this, Green reveals that he has an interest in martial arts and says that he has had extensive training in how to handle potentially tricky situations involving actual physical attack.
This is further confirmed when Green leads a tour through the company’s spacious Malta-based administrative headquarters: it includes popping into the gym, where there is a training dummy for martial arts or boxing training in the corner.
Green makes a beeline for the dummy and begins to demonstrate a series of martial arts moves, despite being in his full shirt and tie. It is a fun exchange, but it is clear that he can certainly pack a punch, if called upon.
As the interview draws to a close, Green talks about the culture within the deVere Group.
“Culture is vital for any company. It is the CEO’s job and then the CEOs of the local businesses to ensure that the culture is right. I don’t allow people to work for me I don’t enjoy working with.
“If you don’t enjoy your job, what are you doing? If you want to work for deVere you have got to have fun. We insist on it. Have fun, but be professional and be the best.
“I believe in fun. We shouldn’t just have coffee breaks, we should have fun breaks. We should have laughter breaks.”
If laughing is so important. Come on Nigel Green, tell us a joke.
Green laughs heartily. “I can’t do that!” he says. “Haha. You got me on that one.”
Finally, a question that stumps Green, who for the first time is almost lost for words. It might have taken most of the day, but ‘job done’.
And with that the interview is concluded and Green is off to take one of many phone calls, probably from a number of different time zones
Like the banner inside Manchester United Football Club states: “Hated. Adored. Never Ignored”. Even the most ardent Chelsea fan would find it difficult not to agree. And that perhaps sums up Nigel Green in a nutshell.
Full video interview
Emerging from deep political waters
Aerial view of Grand Cayman (Shutterstock.com)
Following a hotly-contested election and subsequent struggles to form a coalition government, the Cayman Islands is looking to renew its bid to be seen as a top financial services centre, particularly for hedge funds. Peter Body reports
The residents of the Cayman Islands were incredibly lucky to escape the devastation of the giant Hurricane Irma recently. But there have certainly been turbulent times politically, particularly during the 2017 Cayman general elections which took place in May.
Even after the polls closed, the drama continued at first, as the islands’ politicians struggled to form a coalition government that satisfied all concerned.
“The weekend of the long knives” is how some Caymanians were heard to refer to the immediate post-election period, the Cayman News Service noted, as coalitions seemed to form and then dissolve within a matter of hours.
It was only after a few false starts that, as expected, Alden McLaughlin returned as premier, his party having taken seven out of the 19 seats up for grabs, and a new cabinet was assembled from a mixture of new and familiar faces.
Business as usual
By early June, though, long-time observers said things were settling back into a routine, with few expecting any major shifts in policy.
After all, they point out, the Territory's stability over the years, with little social or racial division, that has long been one of its greatest advantages over the various other jurisdictions – both in the Caribbean and globally – that it competes with for tourists, investment, HNW residents and the ever-important financial services sector.
(Of an annual budget approaching US$900m, more than a third is contributed by the financial services industry.)
From bankless to IFC in less than 60 years
In some ways it is remarkable that this tropical British Overseas Territory, tucked away in a trade winds-caressed corner of the Western Caribbean, is consistently rated among the most important financial centres in the world.
As recently as 1960, for example, it didn’t have a single bank anywhere within its entire surface area of 260 sq km (100 sq mi).
How often do you use offshore investments in portfolio construction?
- Very often
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In addition to its stability, deeply-rooted tradition of British common law, tax neutrality, and proximity to the United States – all of which are often mentioned among its other USPs – it is also not a “one trick pony”, as Rawlinson & Hunter, an international accountancy with a major outpost in the Caymans, explains in its promotional literature.
“Unlike other offshore financial centres, the Cayman Islands is in the unique position of being a top international banking centre, a leading jurisdiction for the creation and administration of trusts, the world's leading domicile for offshore funds, the second-largest captive insurance centre and a world leader in structured finance.”
Caymanians point with pride to the islands’ role as the domicile of some two-thirds of the world’s hedge funds, with 7,600 entities regulated there.
Assets under management total US$2.3trn.
More recently, it has been successful in attracting private equity vehicles as well, which now number more than 20,000.
In the most recent edition of the Global Financial Centres Index, published in March of this year, Cayman Islands was ranked 31st, two above Dublin, another funds industry centre, but which focuses more on EU regulated and compliant fund vehicles. (Cayman is more focused on the US and South American markets, although it also domiciles European funds and other vehicles.)
This is a move up of 13 places, from 44th place, against five years ago, according to Mark Yeandle, associate director of the Z/Yen Group, which carries out the twice-yearly GFCI research, determining the ranking.
“The reason the Cayman Islands do not feature in the Panama Papers is that you would need to be unsound of mind to use the jurisdiction for any form of improper tax structuring”
– Anthony Travers, Cayman Islands Stock Exchange
That the Cayman Islands has risen in the GFCI ranking reflects, he says, that the jurisdiction’s efforts to raise its game and boost its image, and make a case for using its financial services sector ahead of those of some of its rivals, is starting to be recognised by the marketplace.
One way it’s done this has been to participate actively in debates carried out on the pages of publications like the Financial Times, which is widely read by financial services executives around the world.
Cayman Islands Stock Exchange chairman and attorney Anthony Travers OBE is one of the jurisdiction’s most outspoken defenders in such situations, often responding feistily on behalf of his countrymen at the slightest suggestion that the Cayman Islands might be anything but squeaky clean.
A few days after the Panama Papers scandal broke in April 2016, for example, he responded to press reports of a UK politician’s warning that Britain might have to impose “direct rule” on its “tax haven” territories if they didn’t fall into line with British tax standards by noting, in a letter to the FT, that: “The reason the Cayman Islands do not feature in the Panama Papers is that you would need to be unsound of mind to use the jurisdiction for any form of improper tax structuring”.
“Because the British and Cayman Islands governments have set the global standard on the issue of tax transparency, HM Revenue & Customs, the Internal Revenue Service and the tax and law enforcement authorities of all EU jurisdictions, among others, have complete and unrestricted access to all beneficial ownership information on Cayman structures,” he added.
Noting that unlike the Caymans, such US jurisdictions as Delaware, Wyoming and Nevada keep no beneficial ownership records at all, he concluded his letter by saying, pointedly, “It is not for no reason that the Panama Papers reveal the increasing use of US corporations”.
Low tax regime
Nevertheless, one of the difficulties for the Cayman Islands – which is also true of certain other low-tax jurisdictions – is that it isn’t possible to pretend it isn’t a low-tax regime, because it is, in that it doesn’t raise money to fund government in the same way as many G20 countries.
There are no income taxes, no corporation taxes, nor are there any capital gains, wealth, inheritance or gift taxes; nor is there estate duty.
While this is perceived by its critics as an important attraction for companies and individuals, Caymanians argue that its image as a low tax jurisdiction is actually a “mis-characterisation” that is rooted in the fact that its tax regime, in Travers’s words, “isn’t more similar to that of, say, the US or the UK”.
In other words, instead of income and capital gains taxes, it employs instead a system of “indirect” taxation, making use of stamp duties, customs duties, business licences and various fees to raise the money it needs.
The fees include work-permit fees, paid by the island’s large expatriate workforce; transaction fees, paid by those active in the financial services sector; and fees levied on tourists who visit the islands.
“All Cayman Islands vehicles pay tax in the jurisdiction of investment, in accordance with the laws of that jurisdiction; and investors will do so in their jurisdiction of residence,” Travers told International Investment.
“This should all become blindingly obvious now that Cayman has signed up to the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard, and later this year, introduces a new beneficial ownership registry.”
Tax haven accusations aren’t the only challenge for the Caymans, of course.
Like many other offshore jurisdictions recently, for example, Cayman has seen the number of its banks drop, to 158 earlier this year, well down on the 426 that were present in 2001.
The number of active mutual funds licensed in the territory was slightly down last year, too, with a total of 10,586.
Among the residents of Cayman, meanwhile, a few issues that have nothing to do with taxes, banking statistics, beneficial ownership or mutual funds have been attracting considerable attention in recent months – particularly among the expatriates who account for more than half of the islands' population of around 60,000. And, some sources there say, some of these issues could have implications for the islands’ financial services industry, which needs to attract and maintain the best people it can to compete globally.
Perhaps the most potentially disruptive is a package of unpopular reforms made recently by the Cayman Islands government to its pensions laws, as they pertain to expatriates.
Under the so-called National Pensions (Amendment) Law 2016, which took effect on 1 January but which isn’t yet fully in force, foreign workers with a Cayman Islands pension who move abroad from Cayman from December 2017 onwards will only be able to access their money when they reach retirement age.
Although this may not seem an unreasonable stipulation for a pension pot, it’s turned out to be highly unpopular among expatriates because it effectively prevents a portability feature that until now has allowed such foreign workers to enjoy early access to the pension savings they had built up while in Cayman, within two years of leaving the island.
The reforms have been defended on grounds that they would bring the country’s pensions regime into line with pension regulations in the rest of the developed world.
Ahead of May’s election, Cayman Islands government spokespeople stressed that the pension law reforms could change under the new administration. But Cayman Islands sources say that, given the make-up of the coalition government that was ultimately formed after the election in May, change now seems unlikely.
Immigration is another matter that has been the subject of some debate in the islands, with a reported backlog of more than 900 applications for permanent residence from long-term non-Caymanian residents said to be a particularly hot issue. Some individuals have filed judicial review actions against the government in an effort to force the process along, according to media reports.
Here again, financial industry sources have said that the government’s failure to deal with this issue has been a concern for their sectors, as many of the individuals affected are long-term professionals who work in Caymans’ legal and accounting professions.
As in many other jurisdictions, there are issues as well about the way immigration is handled generally, and this, too, is seen as having implications for the financial services industry.
Less than two weeks after taking office for his second term as the Cayman Islands government’s leader, in what was seen as a fresh acknowledgement of the importance of the issue, McLaughlin told a press conference that the territory’s immigration problems needed to be sorted out, and that he would see to it that it was done.
Additional reporting by Helen Burggraf.
Fund manager Profile
Bambos Hambi, Aberdeen Standard Investments' MyFolio head
Bambos Hambi, Aberdeen Standard Investments
With a merger with Aberdeen successfully concluding and a newly launched SICAV version of the MyFolio fund range picking up plaudits, Aberdeen Standard Investment’s Bambos Hambi has good reason to survey the view from his London eyrie with satisfaction.
Gary Robinson caught up with him there
In the world of multi-manager and fund of funds there are few better-known names than that of Bambos Hambi.
His specialist style of investing money, by selecting the best managers in the investment funds universe and blending the investments to create portfolios to suit different risk profiles, sounds like a task not too dissimilar to that of an investment IFA.
But on closer inspection tracking the performance, movements and strategy changes of thousands of fund managers, is no easy task and takes a safe pair of hands to get it right.
And ideally one with experience and understanding of the many variables that make and break fund manager performance across a range of market conditions.
With 25+ years of multi-manager experience, the majority of it heading the multi-manager proposition within some of the industry’s biggest players, Hambi has one of the most experienced pairs of hands in the business.
The more than £15bn in assets under management in the MyFolio range (including some institutional workplace pension portfolios) makes it clear that the industry also shares this view.
The view from the top
International Investment caught up with Hambi and MyFolio co-fund manager Joe Wiggins, who is heading the recently launched SICAV version of MyFolio (alongside James Millard) at the company’s headquarters in London’s financial district.
Based in the higher regions of 30 St Mary Axe (often referred to as The Gherkin) we find the pair in fine sprits. One might even say – as our eyes are occasionally drawn across the London skyline – on top of the world.
At the time of the interview the dust is settling nicely on the recently approved Standard Life and Aberdeen merger.
“We have got many very happy clients on the back of a six years track record now of smoothing returns using 19 asset classes, but very importantly using the right absolute return vehicles as shock absorbers”
– Bambos Hambi, Aberdeen Standard Investments
But, perhaps more pertinently to the international marketplace, the recent soft launch and roll out of the SICAV version of the MyFolio fund range has been “extremely well received”, particularly in the DACH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) region of investment advisers.
While nowhere near the UK figures, the SICAV, which is co-headed by Wiggins and supported by Hambi, is seeing a lot of interest in its first six months across Europe as it builds performance.
So why take the Standard Life Investments MyFolio range outside of the UK for the first time? And why now?
Joe Wiggins: “Timing wise, we wanted to build a track record, so there was no reason not to launch [in Germany last December and other regions in February this year]. Exact timing of a launch was not as important, but getting the portfolio in the correct shape.”
Bambos Hambi: “We did a lot of work before we launched MyFolio. The catalyst for MyFolio was the retail distribution review (RDR) in the UK.
“Recently we noticed Holland has adopted this RDR and it looks like it is being accepted more in Europe and across the world.
“Many, many financial advisers use us as their central investment proposition.”
In the UK the RDR banning of commissions has been instrumental in MyFolio’s growth with advisers charging fees having to segment their client bases which, Hambi says, has meant that lot of their smaller clients has been filtered through the MyFolio proposition.
Joe Wiggins, Aberdeen Standard Investments
“We are quite nuanced with how we select funds. We have our portfolio strategy group meetings where our managers and analysts sit down together. We then use Morningstar and other research to narrow the fund selection down”
– Joe Wiggins, Aberdeen Standard Investments
Can that UK success be replicated around the world?
BH: “We did a lot of research with advisers and customers before we launched in both cases.
“The advisers and the customers were both telling us that the problem they had was the difficulty of choice. What asset classes do you go to? We have 19 in MyFolio.
“Once you’ve decided on asset class, then what funds? We have a universe of 18,000 funds in the UK.”
JW: “The SICAV has marginally more. Increasingly what we invest in the SICAV we can invest in the UK, but there are a few differences. But there are so many funds to choose from, that [customers and advisers] need to use us.”
BH: “The customer was also telling us that they weren’t happy, as during the credit crisis asset managers were very good on the way up but were not protecting on the downside.
“Across our active range, we include absolute return in two ways: absolute return as defensive – via bonds funds, which is cash plus 2-3% – and we use it as a growth asset as a cash + 5% asset.
“When Europe looked like it was imploding in summer 2014 and summer 2015, when the Euro looked like it might be disbanded, those shock absorbers worked very well for us.”
He continues: “We have got many very happy clients on the back of a six year track record now of smoothing returns using 19 asset classes, but very importantly using the right absolute return vehicles as shock absorbers during the times you want them.”
Bambos Hambi might be the biggest name in the team but how close does the MyFolio team work in the overall fund selection?
BH: “Very close. We have 12 (we used to have five in previous teams) and another one joining this month.
“We also haven’t lost anyone for 4-5 years which is important. It is very much team-work. Our dedicated analysts will sometimes see a fund manager two or three times before they even bring them to the table.”
Using a football team analogy, is it like a Premier League manager with transfer targets?
Do you have a top 100, 200 or 400 fund managers that you’d like to select?
JW: “We have various filters – does it match the asset class first. That narrows the filters. We do a quantitative screen that looks at risk and reward through the cycle. Is performance good and bad? Is risk good and bad? But we are aware of quant limitations.
“We are quite nuanced with how we select funds. We have our portfolio strategy group meetings where our managers and analysts sit down together. We then use Morningstar and other research to narrow the fund selection down.”
You mentioned smoothing, which sounds like a nice alternative to the old With Profits, which was very much the Standard Life way back in the day. Would you agree?
BH: “It has been described as a more transparent With Profits type of service. We are using more asset classes than the traditional With Profits funds. We use a lot of short duration bonds rather than the conventional bond market and absolute return managers that With Profits didn’t tend to use.
“So, yes, but much more sophisticated and much more transparent than the With Profits funds that people may be aware of historically.
JW: “Across the range we have different risk strategies from 1-5, so we are invested in riskier assets to a greater or lesser extent.
“We are not immune to the vacilations of markets and we don’t pretend to be. But we try to create diversity of structure so there is insulation to those difficult periods and that diversification comes at asset class level.”
You have funds available that are fund of funds from your own [Aberdeen Standard Investments and soon, once approved to include the Aberdeen funds] range of funds and others that includes the other investment companies as well. Why have a Standard Aberdeen Investments fund of funds when you can have the whole universe?
BH: “Believe it or not most of the flow (in the UK) has been into our managed product which is Aberdeen Standard investments. People like active management. And being an internal fund of funds and fettered there is a lower charge.
“SLI have some fantastic managers – performance has been very strong.”
Having Aberdeen funds as well as SLI funds in the range must be exciting?
BH: “Yes it adds more diversity to the range. The prospectus will have to change and there are regulatory hoops to jump through.”
JW: “But we will apply the same rigorous process and will only make the changes if they meet our criteria.”
Are manager moves still important and are the star fund managers as important to the fund of funds and multi-manager as they were 15-20 years ago?
BH: “It is still very important. We still use the five Ps: Philosophy, process, people, performance, price.
“People is the fourth P. People are very important. It is great if we can find a strong team but the biggest cause of turnover is still manager moves. It is often the key differentiator in a fund. Is there a team? But who are the vital people in that team?
“We believe in quality active management we are looking at that top 10% and having the right people and process is very important to that.”
The Aberdeen Standard Investments' MyFolio fund range is now available as a SICAV for international investors.
A podcast version of this interview may be downloaded here.
A listing of some of the biggest
players in offshore financial services
Canada Life International, Canada Life House, Isle of Man Business Park, Douglas, Isle of Man IM2 2QJ
Tel: +44 (0)1624 820200; Fax: +44 (0)1624 820201
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web: www.canadalifeint.com
Profile: Canada Life International Limited (CLI) established 30 years ago remains one of the leading offshore providers with assets under administration of £14.3bn (as at 31 March 2017). CLI is the only offshore insurer to maintain a five-star AKG Annual Financial strength rating for 14 consecutive years. Through CLI Institutional Limited, institutional and UHNW clients have a level of policyholder protection that isn’t otherwise available in the UK offshore market. In 2015, CLI also completed the acquisition of Legal and General International (Ireland). This has enhanced the choice available to UK investors by providing them with a choice of jurisdictions within one compelling offshore proposition.
Offering: Canada Life International Limited (CLI) offer a wide range of regular and single premium investment bonds, tax and estate planning solutions and whole of life protection solutions. Our investment options include full open architecture, links to over 40 platforms and over 150 discretionary investment managers as well as over 150 internal linked funds. Our team of technical specialists offer more than 200 years of experience in taxation, trusts, estate planning and pensions between them. In addition, we publish and back our service standards with a no quibble, non-performance penalty system.
Generali Worldwide, PO Box 613, Generali House, Hirzel St, St Peter Port, Guernsey, Channel Islands GY1 4PA
Tel +44 (0) 1481 712 108; Fax +44 (0) 1481 712 424
Profile: Generali Worldwide is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Generali Group. Founded on the strength of this international presence and wide-ranging expertise, Generali Worldwide specialises in offering life insurance-based wealth management and employee benefit solutions to a global audience, including multinational organisations, international expatriates and local resident populations in licensed territories.
The company’s head office is based in Guernsey, a premier international financial centre, and is a registered insurer under the Insurance Business (Bailiwick of Guernsey) law, 2002 (as amended). It is also an authorised insurer in the Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, Jersey and Singapore.
Offering: A range of individual unit-linked regular and single premium-based savings, retirement and investment plans and an open-architecture portfolio bond along with group retirement and savings products, group life and disability and healthcare products.
Harbour Court, Lord Street, Box 192, Douglas, Isle of Man IM99 1QL
Tel: +44 (0)1624 688 000
e-mail: email@example.com; Web: www.hansard.com
Profile: Hansard International has been providing innovative financial products and services for international clients since 1987 and forms part of Hansard Global plc, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange. We administer assets in excess of US$1bn for over 500 financial advisor businesses with over 40,000 client accounts, in over 155 countries. We are celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2017, and already planning ahead for the next 30 years.
Offering: In the ever-changing landscape of financial services, Hansard International prevails as a steady and constant presence. Whilst other providers around us have changed their name, ownership, identity and focus over the years, Hansard International has remained committed to providing innovative financial products and services for financial advisers and their international clients. This strong heritage, which is coupled with exceptional levels of service and a focus on innovation through the use of technology, makes us an exceptional proposition in our marketplace.
Canella Court, Camana Bay, PO Box 32203, Grand Cayman KY1-1208, Cayman Islands
Tel: +1 (305) 603 1400
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web: www.investors-trust.com; LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/investors-trust
Profile: Investors Trust Assurance SPC (ITA) is an international insurance company licensed and regulated by the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority. ITA has gained a leadership position in the international insurance markets by specialising in the provision of investment-linked insurance products and class leading customer service. With service offices established around the world, ITA offers an array of opportunities to its policyholders by providing access to the global financial markets. ITA is constantly innovating and investing in technology giving clients online multi-language (English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese and Russian) access to manage their investment-linked products.
Offering: ITA works with some of the world’s top asset managers under its convenient open architecture platform. It provides clients with greater investment choices and the ability to provide for their families as well as plan for a comfortable retirement. Specialising in medium to long term unit-linked investment products, ITA is proud to offer a range of flexible, tax-efficient products, including regular and single premium annuities, designed to suit various income levels and financial planning needs.
Tel: +44 (0) 1624 655555
e-mail: email@example.com; Web: www.oldmutualinternational.com
Profile: Old Mutual International provides offshore and cross-border investment solutions for both expatriate and local investors across the world. Old Mutual International is the international arm of Old Mutual Wealth, a leading retail investment business encompassing managed investment portfolios, platform services and a range of financial products including tax savings propositions. Old Mutual Wealth is part of Old Mutual Plc, a FTSE 100 group that provides life assurance, asset management, banking and general insurance. Old Mutual is trusted by more than 19.4 million customers across the world and has a total of £394.9bn assets under management (as at 31 December 2016).
Offering: Our award winning propositions, designed around customer needs, are underpinned by a wide choice of investments and online tools, to help advisers monitor and manage the entire investment process for the benefit of their clients. Each proposition is designed to be relevant to the needs of the local market and compliant with the regulatory environment. Because everyone’s needs are different, we don’t sell directly to customers or give advice on our products. Instead we rely on advisers, who understand their clients’ financial goals, to recommend us because of our reputation and the quality of the products we offer.
4th Floor, Rodus Building, Road Reef, Road Town Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Tel: +1 305 443 9610
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web: www.premiertrustglobal.com
Profile: Premier Trust offers a uniquely tailored suite of unit-linked products that grant international investors the opportunity to create a portfolio of investments in a simple and sustainable manner. Premier Trust, part of PA Group’s Life and Investment division, provides clients access to some of the world’s leading fund and asset managers as well as best-in-class custodians. From protecting our clients’ health with worldwide coverage to helping them achieve a successful financial future, PA Group creates financial security road maps for life’s most significant events. For over 18 years, PA Group has guided and protected our clients with comprehensive health and wealth accumulation solutions.
Offering: Our investment products include regular savings and lump sum premium plans with principal protection in multiple currencies (USD, AUD, EUR, GBP), as well as plan options with a broad selection of investment funds and ETFs. With a dedicated administration team and a proprietary online platform, Premier Trust delivers personalised customer service with multi-language support to advisers and clients in over 40 countries. For more information on Premier Trust’s investment solutions, visit www.premiertrustglobal.com.
RL360 House, Cooil Road, Douglas, Isle of Man, IM2 2SP
Tel: +44 (0) 1624 681682
e-mail: email@example.com; Web: www.rl360.com
RL360° is one of the fastest growing international life companies, with offices around the globe and policyholders residing in 170 countries at all points of the compass.
We’re part of International Financial Group Limited (formerly RL360 Group), which has 70,000 policyholders, in excess of US$10 billion assets under management and 335 staff.
Investing with RL360° means choosing a financially strong and uniquely structured company. We have a B+ rating from actuarial consultancy AKG, as well as 4 stars for service. And you can take great confidence from our Isle of Man location, a well-established global financial centre with an outstanding reputation for investor protection and security.
Royalty House, Walpole Avenue,, Douglas, Isle of Man, IM1 2SL, British Isles
Tel: +44 (0) 1624 643 468 (Telephone calls may be recorded)
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web: www.utmostwealth.com
Profile: With a 25-year heritage, Utmost Wealth Solutions is a provider of award-winning offshore bonds for high-net-worth UK residents. Having recently opened a Dublin office to complement our long-established Isle of Man base, we can now offer a choice of jurisdiction in addition to a range of investment options, including a bond with full discretionary management. Recognising the complex and continually changing financial planning landscape, our highly-respected technical support can help you consider appropriate solutions for your high-net-worth clients. With £12bn funds under management and 36,000 policyholders (31 December 2016), we’re here to make a wealth of difference.
Offering: Flexibility and choice are at the heart of our single premium bonds. Our Isle of Man-based Evolution offers access to a wide range of investment options. The Estate Planning Bond, also Isle of Man-based, is combined with a discounted gift trust and is designed for IHT planning. We also have two Dublin-based life assurance bonds. Selection offers access to a wide range of open architecture investment options, while Delegation provides access to all the investment flexibility offered via a discretionary fund manager. Utmost Trustee Solutions, our in-house trustee service delivers expert support in all trust administration matters