Choosing an international IFA

The financial world is flooded with sharks and scammers looking for an easy way to make money.

In most cases, it’s your money they are after, so how do you find a reliable and honest international financial adviser?

The first move is not to take anyone who approaches you at face value.

If you receive a letter, email or phone call from a financial or investment adviser, then they are unlikely to have proper authorisation.

Even if they say they have, it’s easy to mock up a web site or letterhead. Check with the adviser’s regulatory body that they are authorised to give you the advice you are seeking.

Check out skills

Unscrupulous advisers have been known to continue using expired registration numbers and licences.

The most popular financial qualifications are chartered financial planner, given by the Personal Finance Society, and certified financial planner, from the Institute of Financial Planning.

For expats dealing with a UK financial adviser in a European Union country, the firm and adviser must have a ‘passport’ from the Financial Conduct Authority for each different area of advice they offer.

The FCA keeps a list of authorised financial firms and advisers – and a warning list of scammers and fraudsters trading without permission.

Another simple check is a Google or Bing search on the firm or adviser. The search should throw up any information online about them – good or bad. Don’t forget that one person with a moan is more likely to complain than 100 satisfied customers.

Getting to know your IFA

Other points to think about include:

  • Whether the firm or adviser can demonstrate a track record of qualification and experience in handling cases like yours
  • Do you get on with the adviser, can you get in touch with them and what sort of customer service they offer?
  • Is the adviser truly independent? IFAs should give unbiased advice from a whole of the market perspective and not just select products and services that may be unsuitable for you from a small range of providers

You should pick up on these points from an initial meeting.  Most IFAs offer these consultations for free, but keep the time down to 30 minutes or so just to get to know you and your financial needs.

The size of the firm and their specialisations generally govern the fee, so shop around and compare services and prices before committing.