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Expat Focus Financial Update April 2024

Expats in Thailand ‘May Have Bank Accounts Investigated’

In late March, the Pattaya Times reported that UK banks may have to pass customers’ information over to the Department of Work and Pensions, as part of the data protection and digital information bill. The DWP says that there is a history of overpayments to British pensioners abroad – even to those whose pensions are, in some countries, frozen. The DWP also believes that some expats have not notified them of their location.

The Campaign to End Frozen UK Pensions in Thailand have told the press that UK pensions should simply be increased in line with inflation for expats living in Thailand and other regions. This won’t affect expats with offshore accounts – the DWP isn’t allowed to access accounts held, for instance, on the Isle of Man.

Survey: the Best Countries for Business Expats

We reported on CEOWorld’s healthcare survey in this month’s International Healthcare Update, but the website also recently produced its 2024 International Executives Mobility Study. This is based on a sequence of metrics:

  • career opportunities
  • earning potential
  • quality of life
  • ease of family relocation
  • ease of raising families
  • ease of settling in

It covered responses by 105,000 business expats and 7,000 international industry recruiters around the world. The ranking appears as follows:

  • Spain
  • Singapore
  • Switzerland
  • Japan
  • Taiwan
  • Finland
  • Canada
  • UAE
  • Israel
  • Portugal

The USA is ranked at number 18, and the UK 24th.

Cyprus Cracks Down on Property Sales to Expats

The district of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a breakaway state recognised only by Turkey itself, is looking to crack down on property sales to foreigners, fuelled by fears of money laundering. The area is popular with Russian and indeed Ukrainian expats, and real estate brokers say that business is booming.

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This was reported by the Guardian back in November: Turkish Cypriots are calling the town of Iskele a ‘new Limassol,’ after a building boom which has been lent traction by Anglo-US sanctions on the Russian wealthy. In August of last year, the British high commissioner, Irfan Siddiq, went further, describing the little territory as a “black hole.” Dr Alexander Apostolides, an adviser to the Cypriot government, told the Guardian that:

“There has to be major change. Without structural reform in terms of creating a sanctions office and serious consideration of proposals to create a single money-laundering regulator, it’s difficult not to see another scandal erupting down the line.”

It looks as though burgeoning Iskele may be about to become subject to this ‘structural reform.’ Property experts say it might be worth investing now if you’re thinking of buying property here, before the rules change.

HSBC ‘Targets Wealth Expats’

HSBC Europe has turned itself around in the last couple of years and is looking at the expansion into Europe by Asian corporate clients as a pathway to underpinning its fortunes in the years to come. It’s also aiming to attract custom from high net worth families at its Swiss wealth unit. The bank has gone from a $1 bn annual profit before tax to $2.6 bn between 2019 and 2023. Assets at HSBC Channel Islands and Isle of Man are also set to increase by 70%.

Hong Kong Bankers Says Singapore’s Appeal Has ‘Worn Off’

Financial experts in Hong Kong say that Singapore’s rising cost of living is making the city state less appealing to financial personnel looking to move out of HKSAR. While Hong Kong is expensive, the gap between costs here and in Singapore is starting to close. Singapore is also starting to tighten up its immigration rules, and as we’ve reported previously, accommodation costs here have been increasing steeply in recent years. Moreover, Hong Kong’s bankers describe Singapore as ‘dull,’ commenting that there’s the opportunity for a broader lifestyle in Hong Kong, with its proximity to beaches, mountains and national parks.

BlackRock Warns of a ‘Retirement Crisis’

The CEO of BlackRock, Larry Fink, has warned of a ‘retirement crisis’ over the next few years, which will be global. He cites UN projections indicating that one in six people globally will be over the age of 65 by 2050. The US, he says, is ‘particularly unprepared’ for the mismatch between savings and expenditure.

BlackRock holds $10tn in assets, and over half of this is in the form of various retirement funds, such as 401(K)s and corporate pension funds. Retirement provider TIAA broadly concurs, telling the Financial Times in late March that there may overall be a $4tn gap between savings and what is needed for retirement in the USA.

Fink cites Japan’s efforts to encourage the elderly to remain longer in work, and also Australia’s superannuation guarantee, as potential options for closing this retirement gap. But something needs to be done, he wrote in his annual letter to investors and CEOs. He says:

“We focus a tremendous amount of energy on helping people live longer lives. But not even a fraction of that effort is spent helping people afford those extra years. Today in America, the retirement message that the government and companies tell their workers is effectively: ‘You’re on your own.’”

Chase Buchanan Holds Seminar in Tenerife

Adele Thomas, a local private wealth manager for Chase Buchanan, is due to hold a free seminar on April 25th for expat residents of Tenerife, or those who are looking to move here. This will be held at the Barcelo Tenerife Hotel in Golf del Sur (10:30am to 12:30pm) and will be hosting guest speakers from Novia Global and Prudential International.

Pension advice, tax planning, and investment advice will all be covered in the seminar, with Novia Global focusing on some ‘need to know’ pension information, and SIPPS and PI speaking on multi-asset investment. The aim of the seminar is also information sharing, for instance between property experts and second home owners who are looking at longer term relocations.

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