What makes an expert an expert? Are people born to be natural public speakers? Or do they stumble through their first few engagements, and slowly, over time, become more and more comfortable with standing at the front and being the centre of attention?
Certainly no one comes out of university a certified expert, although I most certainly thought so when I graduated. Expertise comes through trial and error, through research, practice and review over an extended period of time, together with education, and it’s through this process that we become comfortable in calling ourselves experts.
But we’re often asked about our chosen niche, or whom we chose to assist through our expertise. Most financial advisers would classify their “target market”, if they do classify them at all, in terms of age or income/assets, but this is a bit misguided in our opinion. To truly specialise in a chosen field, you have to be able to visualise your ideal client standing right in front of you.
How do they spend their working week? How do they interact with their family and friends? How and where do they have spare time to interact with you, and how do they unwind from their busy lives? If you can answer this, you will be light years ahead of your competitor down the road, who is focused on “high net-worth individuals”, like every other adviser in the country.
We were somehow drawn towards Australians living overseas, foreign nationals living in Sydney, or Aussies who travel extensively for work as our own ideal financial advice clientele. We didn’t arrive at this conclusion through design, but rather after reviewing our entire client base, and coming to the conclusion that this is who we work best with.
Some would say that these groups are totally different, but really they are simply different sides to the same coin – residents of Earth, with feet in two countries.
Due to their unique circumstances, here are 6 things that Australian expats living overseas, or foreign nationals living in Australia should look for in their financial adviser:
1. Flexible and highly responsive advisers: If you are living independent of family, friends or work colleagues, naturally you’ll travel a lot. You’ll pass through Sydney airport extensively, and spend a huge amount of your time on planes and in airports. When you’re back in Sydney, you’ll need your advisers to be able to meet with you at short notice, and work to your demanding timeframe.
2. Advisers who use modern technology to stay connected with you: While you may be geographically distant from your advisers for some or most of the year, the world is a smaller place than it once was. You need your adviser to deal with this issue professionally through the use of technology, so that you feel connected to the professional in your life, who drives outcomes on your behalf.
3. Advisers familiar with the tax issues you face in multiple countries: You have issues that most others don’t have to face. What does the impact of foreign exchange have on you? Where you reside may or may not be where you ultimately pay tax. An Australian living overseas for example, with their partner and kids in Sydney, may be earning tax-free income in Dubai, but could end up with a massive unforeseen tax bill back in Sydney.
4. Advisers who understand wills and estate planning issues across countries: Think your Australian will controls your foreign assets, or a foreign will controls your Australian assets? Think again. In fact, depending on where you’re living, you may have limited testamentary control even if you have a local will, especially within the Middle East and parts of Europe. Like all estate planning, completing a will is only part of the story – what you do with your assets will drive a lot of the results.
5. Advisers who truly ‘get’ what you’re dealing with: Only someone living out of a suitcase 40 weeks a year, or someone living in a different time zone from their friends and family, truly understands the meaning of the word loneliness. It’s one of the biggest disadvantages to chasing a dream job, promotion or pay cheque. How you deal with this loneliness is a unique challenge, but solving this issue is generally one of the biggest financial and lifestyle challenges that we help our clients Where will the kids go if your wife/husband packs up and moves overseas with you? Should you rent or sell the family home? What are the million other things you haven’t thought about?
6. An adviser who becomes like a member of your extended family! With money, thoughts and responsibilities scattered all over the globe, you need to have a trusted individual at home who is on your We’ve bid on properties on our clients’ behalf, travelled with their children to medical appointments, acted as attorney for elderly parents, and executed a wide variety of different instructions on their behalf. For someone who doesn’t know where they will be next month, being able to turn to us at these times is a luxury which can’t be underestimated.
These types of clients may not suit everyone’s style or financial advice business, especially those who are only interested in distributing products to clients, but to us, those with “feet in two countries” are generally intelligent, driven to succeed, aspirational, and have a limited amount of time to control their own resources, so they outsource it to a professional. These qualities make them a perfect fit for us, in our book.
While our chosen niche may result in a tilt towards Gen X and those with a high income, this is only because in our experience, they are the people who typically move to other countries, or who travel extensively for their jobs. These qualities aren’t the driver of our target market, only a generalisation of them. The day we learned that was the day our whole business changed.
Does that mean that we aren’t interested in looking after our Gen X & Y clients who live in Australia, and don’t travel for work? Not at all. If you’re motivated to receive and pay for professional financial advice, we’ll still be here. But if we were only to work with one type of client ever again, those with feet in two countries would be it.