Many wealthy individuals in Russia and expats working here would really like to use a professional financial adviser but they are either scared by the industry reputation or have suffered a bad experience. This is often exacerbated by friends sharing their own sometimes unfortunate and exaggerated past experiences.
In reality the industry has a number of unwanted people who ruin the reputation of the true professionals. This has become more apparent in countries where there are no formal regulations leaving it open to the âcowboysâ who were once âused car salesmenâ and electrician types before they spent a week on an intensive course to become a full blown independent financial adviser (IFA). Little wonder these relative few spoil it all for the majority of serious advisers who really struggle to uphold their own reputation in this climate and keep their own business operations working well.
So, what should you look for in an IFA? How do you go about trying to find someone who is going to give you genuine professional advice and top drawer service?
The answer is not easy and this results in many being either confused or undecided. They find it too hard and end up not doing anything. This is sad because it will often result in individuals not actually achieving their lifetime financial goals when they could have done so with professional help. I also hear the sceptics amongst you saying that the IFA is capable of having a similar affect. This has some truth but if you select your adviser carefully and know that he is a true professional you will not suffer from the pitfalls which exist amongst the unethical faction.
First you need to find some candidate adviser firms to qualify in order to progress the selection. This is not a difficult task, the trick being to try and get the right ones. Perhaps recommendations from friends or colleagues may help. It is also going to be worthwhile to look for advisers who are clearly stable, visible and well known. If in the public eye for lengthy periods of time they are usually of high reputation. If on the other hand a random Google search shows up a less that glittering reputation then it would be wise to give them a wide berth.
Remember also that one of the keys is going to be the personal relationship you have with the individual consultant within the firm you choose. That relationship must work for you and you will need to be totally comfortable with the individual who is looking after you. Only upon meeting such candidates will you be able to judge this.
One of the other factors which could be very relevant to you is the performance result you are looking for. Do you feel you would benefit more from a dynamic fast moving firm which keeps up with developments; or a more traditional organisation which is rather stayed and much slower but conservative? Those with the flexibility to move in either direction might be best if you would prefer to start walking before you allow any running to commence.
In creating an evaluation you may wish to follow a similar pattern to the following assessment which has been used by some expats in Moscow in the past. This creates a marking system to pitch different organisations to your personal preference:
Using this type of scoring system will allow you to make a start looking at possible options open for you. Many possibilities exist to amend the categories shown in the chart and the way you personally mark them. It is thus more feasible you are able to select a good quality adviser based on your true personal evaluation and opinion of what is important.
One of the difficulties in the industry these days is the fact that regulations are very stringent in some countries yet pretty non-existent, if they exist at all, in others. This results in the creation of unwanted advisers in some areas. A key area to consider is whether your potential adviser firm is regulated. If there are no specific local regulations, such as those laid down in places like Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK, ask whether any other regulations are voluntarily followed. A positive answer will at least give you the comfort that the firm you are talking to is serious about giving true professional advice.
Ask yourself whether the adviser you are engaging in discussions is well versed in expatriate affairs and if he or she has decent life experience. Perhaps someone with some time under his belt will be a better bet for you than a smart young person who is very keen to lay out products in front of you for the sake of simply enhancing his own reputation as a skilled salesman in his firm.
Good advice is available but you need to be careful to ensure you choose it properly. One positive thing to point out is that clients donât have to live with their choices of IFA firm forever. If the relationship, quality of service or investment performance ends up falling short of expectations you are able to get a second, often more candid opinion. Ultimately you are quite within your rights to change investment servicing rights to a new choice adviser. The exercise of getting a second opinion very often proves useful and costs nothing so what are you waiting for? To keep your existing adviser on their toes or to seek alternative opinions take time out to review your choices and make sure you have the adviser you deserve.
Questions to the author can be directed to PFS International on +7 495 6608887
or email to Brianjohnson@fsplatinum.com