Brits abroad are prey for poor advice

It must be the warm weather that brings them out. It’s February and 15 degrees in Switzerland, bright sunshine and not a cloud in sight. And the phone’s ringing.

It’s yet another cold call, the fifth this week, from one of the earnest young Britons hired in droves by the usually greedy, often desperate financial services organisations that reside in lightly-regulated financial markets around the world.

Wherever you find Britons working abroad, you’re sure to find a cluster of these financial outfits, mostly managed by oleaginous shysters who couldn’t hack it in London, and staffed by ingenues with barely a grasp of finance know-how beyond the obligatory in-house crash-course in hard-selling.

The typical telephone caller is a year or two out of college or university. Some basic work experience. An intensive week-long ‘familiarisation’ course, usually somewhere sunny. And that’s it. A typical caller’s bio reads like the one pictured, above.

Self regulation? LOL!

Ask any of these youngsters about the regulation under which their outfit operates and the answer is always the same: “We’re covered by the comprehensive [insert any country name here] self-regulatory system overseen by [insert three or four letter acronym of some random financial regulator here].”

The key word is “self-regulatory”. Self regulation does not work in financial services. It never has. It’s a bit like asking a burglar to manage a Neighbourhood Watch scheme. In many countries the regulation of financial services for foreigners is a joke and there is no regulation worth its salt. It is a Wild West. No matter whether it’s Dubai, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Germany – wherever Britons move to take up work, these people follow, like parasitic worms feeding off the otherwise healthy.

Ask about their qualifications and the hapless advisor will tell you they are “highly” qualified. In truth, they may have passed the very basic level 1 or 2 ‘qualification’, something that you could frankly buy on the Internet or obtain after a few hours’ study – and certainly nothing like enough to work as a financial adviser in the UK.

Truth be told, many of the people who cold-call me are on commission-only earnings and they don’t survive more than a few months (whatever their savings will withstand) before being spat out of an industry which has a churn figure in the high double figures. But their successor will surely call me, as will their replacement, and so on.

LinkedIn is their bible

When the phone isn’t ringing, my LinkedIn profile gets a really good going-over. Why? It’s their bible. I’ve posted articles there that make it clear I’m not buying anything. But still they come. The latest trawler? A young man who has three years’ experience selling second-hand cars in the UK and only arrived in Switzerland about two months ago, according to his own profile anyway (it’s his in the picture, above).

You have to admire their persistence. They rarely take ‘no’ for an answer. And, sorry to say, the only thing that works is to be rude or hang up the phone. Or both. A colleague has even mooted the possibility of inviting the adviser for a meeting and making them wait – for hours. Time is money, after all, and perhaps when we’ve wasted some of theirs, they’ll start to get the message.

If you’re interested, check out this FT article: “British Expats, your financial adviser may well be a bandit.”


Kayak cross: “bright future” for wildwater canoeing – ICF

Canoeing currently has just two Olympic disciplines – slalom and sprint racing – but a third emerging sport is capturing public attention and offers an insight into how the sport’s future on the world stage might evolve.

Speaking at the World Wildwater Canoeing Championships in the remote Swiss mountain town of Muotathal, Jose Perurena, President of the International Canoe Federation, said he saw the development of kayak cross as a particularly exciting sign of how the sport is innovating.

“Look at what young people are doing in other sports, it’s about seeing head-to-head racing, amid much excitement and pace. Skiing has added ski cross to its Olympic repertoire with great success, I see kayak cross as an equally exciting development for wildwater canoeing,” Perurena said.

In kayak cross four paddlers in short, stubby kayaks drop into the river from a steep artificial slide built on the bank. They then race head-to-head down a fast-flowing course, navigating obstacles and trying not to lose time by spinning out of the current or colliding with their fellow competitors. It’s a highly televisual, adrenaline-fueled discipline with paddlers’ blades whirling around furiously and boats bashing against each other in the rapids.

“The challenge for canoeing, as it is for other sports, is to continue attracting young people,” said Perurena. “Slalom and wildwater are exciting for those who know these sports, but for newcomers the sight of four people racing at the same time has great appeal and that is key to growing our sport is enhancing that appeal.”

ICF President Jose Perurena

Perurena was speaking just ahead of the Swiss kayak cross competition, held during a break in the World Championship programme. He paid tribute to the Swiss organisers in Muotathal, describing it as a great example of how a small rural community could nevertheless pull off a world-class event.

“There’s always pressure to hold competitions in urban areas, but in wildwater that isn’t possible. In any case, the organising committee here in Muotathal have shown what can be done with a modest budget and a small army of highly motivated volunteers. It’s been a terrific few days of competition,” Perurena added.

The 2018 event is the first canoeing World Championships to be held in Switzerland since 1973. Xaver Schuler, mayor of the town of Schwyz said the canton had been delighted to welcome the event.

“We have had a dedicated organising team hard at work for over a year,” he said. “The town of Muotathal, Schwyz, and the neighbouring areas have thrown themselves into this event and are excited to welcome world-championship canoeing back to the canton for the first time in 45 years.”

Heinz Wyss, one of the Muota 2018 organizing committee and himself a member of the Swiss team that competed in Muotathal back in 1973, said the return of the World Championships was a day many locals had anticipated for years.

“This is a great day for Swiss canoeing, to see world-class action back on the Muota River,” Wyss said. “We have had great weather, amazing competition and some incredible performances. What more could one wish for?”

More than 300 competitors from 23 countries are attending the 2018 World Wildwater Canoeing Championships in Muotathal, Switzerland. The competitions run until Sunday 3 June.

The event website is here and it can also be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

Why online estate agents aren’t worth it


Imagine you’re buying a house, you see an ideal place on a leading property portal and then make an appointment to view with the estate agent.

If you’re dealing with one of the 10,500 or so members of the National Association of Estate Agents then the chances are you’ll speak to a real person in a real office who’s knows the vendor and has a personal stake in getting the property seen by as many people as possible. If you don’t, well, you’ll take your chances… Continue reading

What did you do in the great financial crash, grandad?

Reuters European HQ in Canary Wharf London, pictured in 2006
I remember asking my grandfather what he’d done in the Second World War and his answer held me spellbound.

Whether tales of the financial crisis of 2007-2008 that more or less kicked off ten years ago today will similarly capture children’s imagination in years to come seems unlikely, even though its lessons are arguably not too much less significant for future generations.

Why? Because failing to learn the lessons of the past bodes ill for an ever more integrated global financial system and world economy, and that means his, your, my – our wealth and prosperity. Continue reading

Surf – the story behind Australia’s 1,000m kayaking success

Australia has won eight Olympic medals in 1,000m kayak racing. It owes much of that success to another sport altogether – surf life saving.

surfskiBased on the training regime developed by beach lifeguard services across the country, surf ski racing has become an established pathway for paddlers to progress to kayak racing on the Olympic stage.

Sprint kayaking isn’t the only Olympic sport to have benefited from the size and strength of surf lifesaving – at the London Games in 2012 more than 60 Australian athletes in the country’s swimming, water polo, rowing and kayaking teams declared a background in competitive surf lifesaving. Continue reading