Strabens Hall has unveiled its Nice operation, which will serve high net worth UK expats in France.
The office opened in October 2019 and it is run by Joanne Leach, who is an international financial planner specialised in cross-border tax and wealth management services.
It has a bi-lingual team to help provide technical tax, trust and pension advice.
Leach told International Adviser: “In the expat world, there is little competition amongst financial advisers, which I believe has bred complacency.”
She said that Strabens Hall “plans to raise the bar, bringing a higher level of personal financial advice and planning to expats in France and Monaco”.
“I have worked with many individuals, helping them manage their affairs so that they can enjoy France without worrying about taxes or misunderstanding different legal aspects.”
Strabens Hall provides international financial planning services to non-UK residents with assets and interests overseas, structuring and managing their wealth.
It works for clients living in or with ties to; France, Jersey, Guernsey, Switzerland, Monaco and EU Member States.
IA asked Leach why the firm needed to open a physical office.
“It is reassuring for our clients in France to have a local office where they can see their adviser and benefit from a client service that is local and practical,” she said.
“I can walk our clients, step-by-step, through often complicated affairs and break down issues over cross-border issues, such as taxes and often-changing legislation. It is all about ascertaining the client’s goals and ensuring they feel comfortable with the plan we set up.
“We also saw an opening for offering the right advice. There are plenty of large, anonymous banks and insurance salesmen in France whose sole focus is to sell products not looking at the client’s situation holistically.”
Issues for UK expats across the Channel
People who want to reside in France need to know about the tax and pension issues they may face.
“There is a common misconception that France has the highest taxes in the world,” said Leach. “But, in fact, if you structure your wealth using the cross-border opportunities between the UK and France, then France can be a tax efficient place to live.”
Leach said that moving before the end of the transition period is because of the “unknown complications that may arise post-Brexit”.
“By moving this year, it will be much easier to gain right to live in France/Europe and benefit from health care and increases in your UK state pension,” she added.
“For many, it is possible to realise all of the monies within your UK pension with minimal tax in France allowing you to restructure your finances with greater flexibility and tax efficiency for your life and any future legacies.
“Not many people realise that, even after leaving the UK and becoming French resident, your UK pensions continue to be exposed to UK regulation and possible changes in law and tax.
“There are ways, in most instances, that you can protect yourself from any adverse changes in future legislation. One way is by taking action now and moving your plan overseas.
“But be careful, it is important to ensure the jurisdiction in which the pension you move to is the best for you and that you’re not stuck with onerous exit penalties should you wish to change adviser or move back to the UK.
“It may not be worth it.”
Moving this year may be problematic with the covid-19 pandemic.
It is unknown whether the Brexit transition deadline will be postponed and what the delays may mean for the UK and its relationship with the European Union.
Leach said: “Life will go on after covid-19 and for those expats planning on moving to either the UK or Europe, we know right now the restrictions to travel have made that planning a little more difficult.
“We are urging any who want to relocate to Europe or the UK, to do so before the end of the calendar year to benefit from the automatic granting of citizens’ rights as per the withdrawal agreement.
“We are doing all we can, planning ahead with the expectation that all will be well in due course. There will be still opportunity in the new year, but the situation is more uncertain.”
Now that Strabens Hall has opened in France, what’s next?
“We have big plans to expand in the future, but for the moment, our sole focus is about reassuring our current clients and offering them the up-to-date advice over the markets shaken by the coronavirus,” Leach added.
“We can’t hide away from the effects of the pandemic and the health and safety of our clients is paramount to us, but we must also focus on protecting our clients’ assets in these turbulent times.”