INVESTING FOR TOMORROW - JSE MAGAZINE

INVESTING FOR TOMORROW

Through innovative and world-class services and management, the deVere Group helps clients safeguard and grow their money

There are many factors that give the deVere Group its ongoing edge over other financial consultancy groups globally. Among others, clearly these include its size. With 80 000 clients, 70 offices and some $10 billion under advice and management globally, it is one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory organisations.

The fact that it is so robust gives clients security and peace of mind. They also enjoy the associated benefits, such as deVere’s market-leading technologies, the comprehensive range of products (many of which are exclusive to deVere clients), its well-established relationships with many of the world’s leading financial institutions, and its pioneering investment strategy division. The latter aims to provide clients with a comprehensive picture of the global economy and regular updates on current stock market and fixed income trends, in order to assist investors in making informed investment decisions.

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In the beginning
deVere was founded by chief executive Nigel Green in 2002, with one Hong Kong office. It was around the time that the number of expat workers boomed.

This sea change brought with it a growing demand for highly tailored financial products that addressed the unique requirements and expectations of those working and living abroad. deVere has addressed this with a trail-blazing portfolio of financial services and products, as well as a laser-like client-centric approach.

Since its launch, deVere has grown year-on-year, testament to its prowess in the highly competitive international financial services sector and the growth of demand for its services from an ever-expanding expat client base. Key to this growth is a focus on a single goal – to provide unrivalled financial advice that is relevant not only to a global market place but to the individual needs of each and every deVere client.

Specifically, deVere helps clients create, grow, maximise and safeguard their wealth.

Among many of the external factors that sets deVere apart in its positioning within world finance is its media presence. Rated so highly, its opinion, commentary and analysis is sought on a continual basis from the world’s leading broadcast, print and web media outlets.

In addition, it has recently set up its own charitable foundation, registered with the UK charity commission, to use its considerable resources to support life-enhancing charities in the communities in which it operates globally, including in SA.

deVere in Africa
Although already well-established in SA, deVere has set its sights on the African continent as the next frontier for its continued growth.

‘Five of the fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa, which is incredibly exciting. There is so much expansion and optimism that it is almost tangible,’ says Greg Stockton, head of Africa for deVere.

‘People want to get on and there is tremendous appetite for development. This is attracting many international companies – and subsequently expats – and deVere is here to help those expats meet their financial objectives. Our expansion across Africa is driven by client demand – and this is a positive, not only for us as a group or business but it is a positive indicator for Africa’s long-term, sustainable economic growth.

‘As African countries develop and grow economically, international companies swoop in to provide the services that every emerging market requires. Africa has so much potential because there is so much room for improvement and investment – deVere operates in that very niche.’

‘Although the majority of our business remains catering to the needs of expats, we also deal with the top end of the local community in many countries as international business people or those who have lived internationally often require internationally-focused financial advice.’

Retirement planning specialists
One of the key specialist areas in which deVere in SA helps clients secure their financial objectives is by advising individuals who have British pensions on how to transfer them outside the UK.

For family-conscious clients who transfer their UK pension into a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS), it most likely means greater tax and succession planning benefits. The majority of UK schemes leave nothing to children over the age of 18. For others, it means greater flexibility, tax and investment control, along with other major advantages.

It is a growing market, as Stockton explains. ‘In the last budget of the previous parliament, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, confirmed that the lifetime allowance [LTA] for pension tax relief is to be slashed further from £1.25 million to £1 million.

‘This will be the third reduction in the LTA since 2012 when the British government brought it down from £1.8 million to £1.5 million. It was lowered again in 2013 from £1.5 million to the current £1.25 million rate. Seemingly annual pension reform, coupled with future uncertainty, will, I believe, serve as a prompt for many individuals to move their UK pensions out of Britain. Such as, of course, many of the 200 000 British expats who live in South Africa, including South Africans and foreign nationals, who have accumulated British pensions will feel the same prompt.

‘Specifically, the LTA reduction will motivate expats in South Africa and around the world to move their UK retirement savings into a QROPS or run the risk of a 55% tax on a withdrawal above this lowering threshold,’ he says.

‘A QROPS is an HMRC-recognised pension transfer scheme that is based in a jurisdiction outside the UK but still adheres to standards and requirements as outlined by HMRC.

‘UK citizens with a local pension may transfer those savings into a QROPS, provided that they have demonstrated reasonable intent to live outside of the UK, that the overseas scheme is registered with HMRC [HM Revenue and Customs] and is fully compliant with the standards of the jurisdiction it is domiciled in.

‘When a UK pension is transferred into a QROPS it is tested against the LTA at that time of transference. This is why it can be reasonably expected that a growing number of expats – as they are the ones able to do so – will enquire about QROPS.’

Overseas investments opportunities
Another principal way in which deVere is able to assist its clients is by helping them access offshore investment opportunities to allow them to take advantage of the overseas allowance and plan efficiently for their future.

In the first annual budget delivered by Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, there was a considerable loosening of foreign exchange regulations.

Specifically, the foreign investment allowance has been hiked up from R4 million to R10 million (or R20 million per family) per year. There is, in addition, a further discretionary allowance of R1 million.

According to Stockton, this is particularly good news for high net-worth individuals in SA. He says: ‘This change gives greater capacity to invest funds abroad – something that will be welcomed by many due to the weak rand and the slowing local economic growth of Africa’s second-largest economy.

‘The move essentially further breaks down overseas investment barriers, meaning not only will South Africa open up to foreign investment; it will, crucially, allow those in South Africa greater capacity to diversify their investment portfolios.

‘The latter point is something I particularly champion for three key reasons.

‘Firstly, it inevitably offers greater levels of investor protection as it will encourage and promote wider diversification across asset classes. As all savvy investors know, the greater the diversification, the more overall portfolio risk is reduced.

‘Failure to diversify a portfolio is widely regarded as one of the most common investment pitfalls – and history teaches us that diversification in these times of rising market volatility is even more essential as the tides can change quickly.

‘Spreading your money around is a vital tool to manage risk. However, it must be used correctly. Diversification will only add real value if the new asset has a different risk profile from other assets.

‘Secondly, I believe the changes will significantly reduce the strong “home bias” approach that is so evident in South Africa and which tends to distort investors’ asset allocation, and which subsequently leads to a lack of geographical diversification.

‘South Africans typically, only have around 6% of their wealth offshore, compared to their British and continental European contemporaries who have around 46% invested internationally.

‘It is a myth that investing globally is riskier than remaining “at home”. In fact, the greater diversification that the investor gets from going overseas, through exposure to greater geographical variation, the fewer risks can be expected.

‘And thirdly, investors can usually expect significant tax advantages through investing internationally, provided the structuring is done with the assistance of a financial advisor with extensive offshore experience.

‘Bearing all this in mind, I am confident that an increasing number of deVere’s clients in South Africa will consider putting more of their investment funds abroad. It can be expected much of this will be through pension trusts and/or property.’

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deVere South Africa
1st floor of the Crystal Towers Hotel
Century Boulevard, Century Way, Cape Town
Tel: +27 (0)21 831 0900
www.devere-group.com