• Noor Shaker

Wealth management for expats in the UK - lessons learnt

A few months ago, my startup was acquired by a US company and that left me with some financial planning to do.

I'm lucky enough to have friends and entrepreneurs in my circle who have successfully exited their businesses, naturally, I reached out to gather thoughts and insights around post-exit planning to consider including wealth management. That led to intros to solicitors, accountants, financial advisors and investment managers as well as recommendations related to private banking, buying a property, angel investment and the list goes on. There was an unexpected and overwhelming amount of information I had to process, especially for someone who had never given financial planning much thought. All I had to this point was an ISA account holding a very small amount of investment in a diversified portfolio and some savings in a standard saving account. I didn't even have a pension since I was pouring all the money into the company.

Being an expat in the UK complicated things a bit more. Some of the rules related to tax treatment and investment options, for instance, can be quite different and you might end up leaving a rather substantial sum of money on the table if you don’t take advantage of the rules specifically designed to attract foreign wealthy individuals to remain and spend their money in the UK.

The data I gathered and the amount of information available online, together with the apparent complexity in which the information is presented, especially for a non-financial expert, was overwhelming. Add to that the hidden fees associated with the individual service offering and you will feel like your money is gone before you even started. I have therefore that I decided to put everything on hold until the Xmas break. I felt I needed enough time to digest and be informed - mainly by doing what I’m best at: research.

It turns out that while things look complicated on the surface, the principles are actually quite simple and understanding those principles is perhaps enough to make an informed decision without overpaying fees.

First thing first, the one thing that everyone I spoke to agrees on is the importance of having a will. This is especially important if you are married and have kids since you want to control who gets what and when. The will also allows you to name your trustees and guardians in the case of the death of both parents. The fees for writing the will can vary a lot from hundreds to a few thousands, which I find to be a bit odd given that this field is perhaps as old as we human existed so you'd thought that it should be a very straightforward and a standard procedure.

Now on to other matters you need to consider:

  • Attractive investment vehicles from a tax perspective such as ISA and Junior ISA, Pension and Fixed term investments.

  • Buying a property (if you don't have one).

  • Yearly allowance

  • Taking advantage of your non-domicile status as it offers many tax advantages

  • Hiring a Private Financial Advisor (PFA)

  • Hiring an accountant

  • Deciding on your investment allocation and strategy

  • Picking the right investment vehicle to save and grow your money. You have a number of options to consider such as private banking, investment apps and offshore trusts and bonds managers.

It is not easy for a non-professional with a full time job to grasp all the elements above with all their nuances and I'm still trying to figure out my way around many of them. You don't need all the information to execute yourself but you certainly need enough knowledge to judge the services provided and understand what you are paying for and whether it is worth it: i.e the fees are marginal compared with profit. In the next series of blogs I will try and disentangle some of the elements and the insights I gathered.

Disclosure- I'm not a lawyer nor a financial advisor, just a simple human being deciphering financial rules to ensure the best outcome. Everyone's situation is unique so seek advice if you feel you need one.