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Financial adviser in Portugal

By Mark Quinn
This article is published on: 19th April 2022

British expats, your financial adviser may well be a bandit!”, this was the title of a 2016 article by Jason Butler in the Financial Times. He painted a depressing picture of the state of the advisory market for expats and some of his key observations still hold today.

So what are some of the issues you need to be thinking about when you are seeking a Financial Adviser in Portugal?

One of the main points from the FT article was the importance of focusing on fees and charges. Butler states that unlike the UK, which abolished commission in 2012, many expat destinations suffer from “eyewatering expensive financial products laced with enormous commission payments”.

It is therefore important to have a clear understanding of what you are being or will be charged, and importantly that these are fully disclosed. This is something not all advisers have done and is fast becoming an issue for them as a result of the MIFID II directive which is forcing them to disclose their charges.

The other area of focus was on qualifications, with Butler citing a lack of qualifications in general. In fact, in Portugal, there is no minimum qualification requirement so in theory, anybody can set themselves up as ‘advisers’.

In the UK, the minimum standard to advise is ‘level 4’ but the gold standard is ‘level 6’, which is Chartered status. These higher qualifications are awarded by the CISI and CII (UK) and the average pass rate for the Chartered status examinations was just 56% in 2020.

You should also seek advisers who are tax qualified, or at the very least work with a firm or individual that is, and who fully understands cross-border issues. This is important given the relatively complex nature of expats’ financial affairs.

So, why might you need a financial adviser?
If you are considering setting up or reviewing a complex structure such as a pension or investment, looking to put inheritance and succession planning in place, or restructure your affairs for tax efficiency, you should seek professional advice so you do not end up with something that is unsuitable or has unforeseen negative implications.

Your adviser’s role is to help you achieve your objectives by advising you on the best course of action to take and if necessary, research the market to find suitable structures that can be tailored to your personal situation.

How to choose your adviser and advisory firm?
Firstly, you should shop around and meet with several advisers to discuss your circumstances. Advisers will usually offer an initial discussion free of charge and this will give you the opportunity to evaluate them, their firm and gauge if you can work together long term.

Some initial questions you should be considering are:

  • Is the firm regulated?
  • Are they able to offer impartial advice or are they restricted in what companies and products they can offer due to exclusivity agreements?
  • Do they have indemnity insurance?
  • Is the adviser qualified? If so, to what level?

You should also do your own research but bear in mind, some firms are known to remove any negative reviews from the internet.

What if you already have a financial adviser in Portugal?
David Blanchett, the head of retirement research for Morningstar Investment Management, wrote the following for the Wall Street Journal in February 2020, “the adviser-and advice-who was a good fit for you 10 years ago, may no longer be a good fit now. Even if you have no major complaints about the service you have been getting, it is a good idea to ‘shop around’ every few years. You may not realize that you are missing out on better advice or costs until you do a comparison. Conversely, you may reinforce that the adviser you have still is the best fit.”

Article by Mark Quinn

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