In The Global Expatriate’s Guide to Investing, Andrew Hallam cuts through the lies propagated by sleazy snake oil salesmen in the financial services industry and explains why actively managed mutual funds—and especially investment-linked insurance policies—are ripoffs.
At various points, Hallam refers to ILAS schemes as “offshore donkeys” and the advisers who sell them as “rip-offers”. He lists several culprits by name.
Guilty insurance companies include: Zurich International, Generali, Friends Provident, Standard Life, Royal Skandia, Aviva.
Guilty brokerages include: Convoy Financial Services, the deVere Group, Montpelier Financial Consultants, Austen Morris Associates, Globaleye Financial Planning, the Henley Group, Gilt Edge International, Warrick Mann International, the Alexander Beard Group, SCI Group Ltd., the Sovereign Group.
“Advisors selling [ILAS] products earn commissions high enough to make a cadaver blush.”
“Recognizing a winning lottery ticket when they see it, many expatriate advisors flog the products exclusively. To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Consequently, these expensive, inflexible platforms have spread like pandemics among global expats.”
They’ve also spread like Ebola among local Hong Kongers and Singaporeans.
Chapter 6 of Hallam’s book is entirely devoted to exposing the evils of ILAS. It contains multiple stories which were recently reported in the Hong Kong press and on this blog.
In one section, Hallam takes a shot at the vile values of IFA coach, Frank Furness, who proclaims, “For me, [being a financial adviser is] the best job in the world. Where else can I go out and meet somebody, drink their coffee, eat their cake, and walk out with $5,000 in my pocket? No other business.”
[See point 4 in the video below, where Furness talks about his “passion”.]
Hallam’s book is informative not just because it warns investors about which advisers, companies, and products to avoid. More importantly, it tells investors which advisers, companies, and products to seek out.
The book contains an up-to-date list of low-cost brokerages and ETF index funds on stock exchanges across the globe. In plain language, the book explains how (and why) to diversify fund holdings. For investors who feel they don’t have the discipline to do-it-themselves, Hallam provides of a list of “advisers with a conscience” who shun actively managed funds and instead help their clients create and maintain portfolios of low-cost index funds.
The book is primarily targeted at Western expats of various nationalities, but Hallam also devotes a chapter to giving tips to Asians. For example, he points out that buying from the Hong Kong stock exchange is cheaper than buying from the Singapore stock exchange, due to lower bid/ask spreads. He also warns locals to be wary of purchasing from US stock exchanges, since fund holdings valued above $60,000 USD could be subject to US estate taxes when investors die. He names the Canadian and British stock exchanges as attractive alternatives, since foreign investors aren’t required to pay estate taxes.
A Takeaway for Regulators
As long as advisers can earn more money from selling pseudo-insurance products and actively-managed mutual funds (as opposed to low-cost index funds), advisers will continue to fleece investors at every opportunity. This will cause millions of investors to retire poor, leaving taxpayers to pick up the tab when retirees can’t pay for their own healthcare and living expenses.
The best way to effectively preempt this looming crisis is by banning remuneration practices which reward advisers for selling exploitative products. Until such reforms are in place, regulators need to make an effort to spread knowledge and raise financial literacy among the general public.
If regulators are themselves uninformed about the basic principles of investing, they will find Hallam’s book to be a useful resource.
The ebook version of Hallam’s book is currently available at Amazon.com (see here). The hardback version will be in bookstore next week, on Oct. 27th.
Hallam constantly writes new articles for various magazines and newspapers. To find his latest work, visit his website, AndrewHallam.com.