Home » Expat Focus Financial Update November 2023

Expat Focus Financial Update November 2023

Expats in Europe ‘Locked Out’ of Pensions

We’ve reported extensively on the recent policy of some British banks closing down expats’ accounts – a result of the complex passporting regulations across the member states of the EU post Brexit. Now it appears that not only are expats facing problems with the closures themselves – for example, having to open local accounts and transfer incoming money such as rents on properties – but they’re experiencing difficulties accessing savings and pensions, too.

CEO Paul Beard, of international financial services company Alexander Beard Group, told the Daily Telegraph in October, that the firm has been contacted by significant numbers of expats resident in Europe, complaining that their pension providers have refused to pay out pension money. In addition to this, pension providers are limiting the services that they are now prepared to offer expats in the EU. 

Cross Border Financial Planning’s executive, Philip Teague, also confirmed to the press that his company is: 

“…starting to uncover some big problems for our clients who have got these very vanilla regular pensions.”

He warns that cases are being fed through to the Financial Ombudsman because of lack of advice about pensions and bank account closures, saying that pension providers just aren’t doing enough to keep clients informed. He has gone so far as to say that this constitutes a ‘dereliction of duty’ and in addition, is in breach of the Financial Conduct Authority’s own rules. 

Moving pension funds into drawdown is considered by HMRC to be ‘cross border business’ and switching to another provider is made complex and difficult by HMRC’s rules on expats and their finances, resulting in up to 25% losses in tax when expat pensioners try to access their savings. 

On another note, an estimated half a million pensioners continue to be locked out of substantial pension increases in 2024/5 because they are expats, according to reports this month. Financial experts say that they have missed out on the pension uprating. Financial advisers, deVere Group, warn that many pensioners living abroad:

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“…continue to have their pensions frozen in value at the point of retirement date or date of emigration.”

Pensions ‘Breakeven’ Index

A recent report by Almond Financial suggests that British pensions rank 16th in terms of value for money, paying £114.24 above the average cost of living, xompared to the Spanish pension, which comes top of the ranking at 407.4% above the breakeven point. Almond told the press:

“For those approaching state pension age in Spain, retirement is a particularly enticing prospect with a healthy pension, low cost of living and not to mention the fantastic weather. Closer to home, the UK has a system that is just above the breakeven point which means at present, there isn’t much room to manoeuvre for those battling the cost of living crisis.”

Belgium and Luxembourg come second and third in the Almond rankings, and although the UK is still in the top half of pension payouts, Almond’s financial adviser Sam Robinson questions how long it will remain there. The full list of the top ten countries for pension payouts are:

  • Spain
  • Belgium
  • Luxembourg
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Cyprus
  • Liechtenstein
  • France
  • Denmark
  • Switzerland
  • Norway

The UK is also beaten by Ukraine, which despite its currently embattled state, ranks 12th – four places above Britain. 

Cap on Banker Bonuses

If you’re in the financial sector and thinking of relocating to London, post-Brexit, the UK will be scrapping a cap on banker bonuses inherited from EU legislation from October 31st. The Bank of England says that the cap has resulted in higher salaries as banks try to attract personnel and compete with European financial hubs such as Paris, Frankfurt, and New York, and that retention of the cap would be counterproductive. Banking organisation UK Finance states:

“We support the removal of the bonus cap, which will ensure the financial services industry is globally competitive and make the UK a more attractive place to work for international professionals.”

Critics of the move, however, say that it prioritises banking personnel over other employees and is ‘risky,’ due to previous bank crashes caused by irresponsible practices.

Meanwhile, the Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation, Chris Hayward, has called for the UK to have access to the EU derivatives market from 2025, plus recognition from the EU financial sector that UK banking practices are equivalent to those in the bloc.

Ryanair Fare Hike

Ryanair air fares are likely to rise by up to 24%, according to figures released this month – despite a 59% increase in after-tax profits to 2.18 billion euros (£1.89 billion) early in 2023. Fuel costs have been rising, too, but the airline has experienced a record summer in terms of the number of tickets sold – Ryanair flew 11% more passengers in the first half of this year.

The airline warns that prices could rise even higher in the months to come. Wildfires and airport strikes don’t seem to have made too much of a dent in the airline’s popularity and the company is projecting a rise in profits between 1.85 billion euros (£1.6 billion) and 2.05 billion euros (£1.78 billion), an increase from 1.43 billion euros (£1.24 billion) in 2022-23.

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s director, is predicting a ‘robust’ Christmas season but warns that the record levels of ticket sales are likely to be offset by fuel costs, which he believes may rise to €1.1 billion over the next few months.