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Migration: Thinking beyond tax

Giles Cheney, Relationship Manager at Dolfin, attended the Global Mobility and Tax Strategies Europe conference in June. He came away with a renewed belief in the importance of assisting clients as they adjust to their move to the UK

12 July 2017 / Regulation

The Global Mobility and Tax Strategies Conference brought together leading government officials, tax, immigration and financial services specialists to compare and explore new and emerging opportunities for UK and Europe’s high-net-worth individuals to manage their investments. The event attracted a high calibre of professionals from all over the world. Speakers included Dr Kristin Surak, Professor in Politics, SOAS, University of London; Trevor Alleyne, Western Hemisphere Department Chief of the IMF; The Honourable Alexandra Otway-Noel, Minister of Implementation for the Government of Grenada; and James Harris, Official Appointed DSP Citizenship Representative for Vanuatu.

A key theme that emerged over the two days was the importance of due diligence, Cheney says. “Whatever field you’re in – law or financial services – you’re expected to carry out sufficient due diligence to ensure that the money you are handling is legitimate.”

Talking tax

Key to the issue of global mobility for high-net-worth individuals is obtaining dual citizenship, or surrendering their citizenship to a new one, and that is a decision that is often driven by tax efficiency. There are many countries in the world that offer beneficial tax arrangements in return for investment, and their representatives told delegates more about the different programmes they offer.

Some countries, such as Grenada, offer migrants a low-tax regime, without the obligation to live there and a low investment threshold. In contrast, the UK is one of the most expensive countries to migrate to.

“People who are wealthy enough to worry about tax often will make bad decisions to avoid paying too much,” Cheney says. “It’s essential that they are advised to think about their life first, and then speak to a professional about making the best tax decisions.”

Lifestyle matters

Cheney believes that despite ongoing political uncertainty, the UK remains a highly attractive destination for investors. “Before Brexit, many people would migrate to one of the EU countries where the investment requirement is lower, and then come and live in the UK. So in fact, by leaving the EU, we’re likely to get more immigration from investors,” he says. “There is no substitute for the UK, and even more so for London. We’re the financial capital of the world, but we also have our culture, our heritage, our education system, our rule of law, the Royal Family, our architecture, our shopping – I don’t think it can be matched.”

“Until that point the conference hadn’t really touched on Asia and China specifically,” he says. “It was a fresh subject and it became obvious very quickly that a lot of the delegates – like many people around the world – are intrigued by Chinese culture. There’s very little understanding and even less experience of dealing with Chinese people. The discussion was very interactive and there were a lot of questions, and it gave me the opportunity to talk about what makes Dolfin special.”

Reimagining migration

Dolfin is one of a very few companies that has dedicated resources for dealing with Chinese investors, Cheney explained to delegates. We have the manpower to support them, including native Chinese speakers; an investment management team who can provide good performance figures to performance-hungry investors; and, most importantly, a cultural understanding of our clients.

“What really hit home for me was the driving factors that make our clients leave China and come to the UK,” Cheney says. “On the first day, the tax experts mentioned that seeking new citizenship is driven by tax. That is absolutely not the case with my clients. They are looking for a better future for their children. They’re not seeking wealth or success – they’ve done very well for themselves at home – it’s about stability, security and safety.”

When Dolfin’s Chinese clients come to the UK, they no longer have the network of friends and government contacts they have come to rely on at home, Cheney says. “They have to find a property, perhaps access a mortgage, register with GPs, get their children into schools, find a tax accountant and obtain a National Insurance number, and often they speak no English at all. We want our relationship with them to be long-term and sustainable, so we want to be their personal advisor as well as their investment adviser. They need people they can rely on, and it’s so rewarding to fill that role.

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