What is an UHNWI Advisor?
Let’s look at the key terms first. The key terms are UHNWI, HNWI, UHNWI advisor and professional advisors.
What is an UHNWI?
UHNWI stands for an ultra high net worth individual, while HNWI is the abbreviation for a high net worth individual.
By definition, UHNWIs have more significant assets and are more powerful financially than HNWIs.
For instance, some major private banks in Switzerland reserve UHNWI titles only for families, individuals and family offices that are able to make single investments of over $500M USD.
It is typical to have different assets and investments located in different jurisdictions globally. This helps asset risk allocation and asset protection.
What is an UHNWI Advisor?
UHNWI advisor is a family office specialist able to advise across complex issues. It is best when the UHNWI is a subject-matter specialist across different specific areas of expertise to be able to draw the most suitable advice for international families investing across borders.
It is important to be able to evaluate how seemingly innocent family decisions may impact family wealth. This is particularly true if family members are relocating to complex tax jurisdictions.
Why finding the right UHNWI advisor can be tricky?
The UK has a highly specialist market of professional advisors. They have their own specific areas of expertise and the type of client they specialise in. However, advisors can also be quite generalist, too.
As an ultra and high net worth individual investing, operating or relocating to the UK many multiple issues may come into play. This warrants for a more integrated and aligned approach and goes beyond the simple advice.
We are talking about multiple assets, business and investment ventures based in the UK and overseas. You are starting to acquire UK tax residence as overseas nationals in the UK.
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This indeed can be an uncomfortable experience. Once a client during our advisory session exclaimed:
“My accountant says that I am a UK tax resident, while my visa does not say the same!”
There is so much information packed in this realisation alone. Frequent visits made and substantial time spent in the UK can make you a tax resident in the UK.
Your UK tax residence may have a bearing on your overseas income and assets. Your income and assets may become taxable in the UK even if you feel you are not sufficiently resident in the UK to warrant this.
In fact, one of the most popular services that I provide for my clients is the annual assessment of your UK tax residence status.
There may be circumstances where you would want to become a tax resident in the UK, while there is also a clear desire not to be tax resident when possible.
Whatever the desired outcome is, if you plan early you can make a substantial difference.
What type of advice to aim for?
I offer my clients a Global Wealth Strategy Session. During our session together, you can have a detailed conversation about your personal, family, investment and business needs.
This helps to develop the most suitable way forward for you. You are able to continue to grow your wealth worldwide and keep yourself and your assets private and protected.
Therefore, when you work with me UK visa and tax implications are only one part of the equation. I look at your global wealth, your planned immediate transactions and more importantly your global vision.
I can help you to implement your global vision for your family, business and wealth in mind.
While working with my long-term clients, I witnessed time and time again a quite a complex journey. This led me to develop a specific tailored offering.
It helps you to position yourself and plan ahead. Being proactive and well prepared will benefit you in the long run.
It allows you to keep your attention on your own strategic business and investment goals.
Professional Advisory and Other Regulated Professionals
As an ultra and high net worth individual, it is not sufficient to receive professional advice from a regulated professional alone.
The experience of a regulated professional is also very important.
Vast majority of regulated professionals have no experience of working with ultra and high net worth individuals.
They do not necessarily appreciate that UHNWI are not regular people. Some assumptions made about you as an UHNWI are in fact false.
Another issue is the inability to integrate a specific advice into the overall fabric that the ultra high net worth individual operates in.
OISC advisers or solicitors
I urge my prospective clients to seek advice from regulated OISC advisers instead of a solicitor.
The reason for this is because UK immigration advice is a specialist area of expertise which changes at least twice a year.
Sometimes, certain decisions are taken without any prior warning and implemented as effective immediately.
In the UK, to become a solicitor one needs to complete a 2-year training contract, which covers at least 4 specific areas of expertise.
UK immigration law is not one of the specific areas of expertise that solicitors acquire during the course of their legal training.
Therefore, it is not uncommon to receive professional advice, which is in fact detrimental to the client.
For instance, an applicant is urged to overstay their visa while a prospective employer is processing their sponsor licence application, which enables to sponsor an overseas worker to work in the UK under the Skilled worker route.
In fact, you should always be highly suspicious of anyone suggesting that you should overstay your visa.
Overstaying your visa brings you within the attention of the Home Office who are at liberty to impose a 10 year ban and prevent you from ever coming back to the UK even if it is for a short visit.
Another disastrous piece of advice that some of my clients received from a solicitor was to bring a newly married spouse to the UK without applying for a family permit in order to live in the UK.
This left a honeymooning couple picked up by French border force and interrogated for the consequential 8 hours under human trafficking charges.
I agree, this is not the best way to spend your honeymoon hours after getting married.
However, a correct UK immigration advice from a specialist UK immigration professional would have spared this unfortunate experience.
Luckily, for the couple they were referred to me and I helped them to overturn the Home Office decision and now they live happily ever after together in the UK.
The Border force interaction is now a distant memory.
UK tax advisors or lawyers and accountants
Working with international clients is a niche area of expertise.
Therefore, if you end up seeking such advice from regular lawyers and accountants in the UK, most likely the professional advice received will be wrong.
I take a great deal of pleasure when a prospective client comes to me after receiving such advice and a suggestion of a huge tax bill to pay and I am able to reassure you that the advice was simply wrong as you are an overseas person in the UK.
There are complex sets of UK tax rules that are applicable to British domiciled individuals and one needs a lot of training, expertise and experience to get it right.
However, more often when such professional advice is given to international individuals in the UK, this advice is simply not applicable.
Therefore, there is no greater pleasure than receiving letters from HMRC confirming that UK tax payable for international individuals in the UK is “zero”.
Again, this is not an automatic outcome and you need to be working with an experienced tax professional like myself who can genuinely evaluate your UK tax situation, the rules and exemptions that specifically apply to your circumstances.
Of course, one needs to be prepared that there may be no easy sailing through as the HMRC may also make mistakes and more trust, focus and cooperation with the dedicated professional is required to achieve the desired outcome.
Global overview or a specific jurisdiction
I often see my clients and their prestigious advisors falling for the latest “flavour of the month”.
Sometimes the suggestion is so strong that a client is advised to change the whole structuring and tax planning of their worldwide assets in favour of a new jurisdiction, which is the apparent flavour of the month.
In these circumstances, I can only applaud the great job that a specific jurisdiction’s sales teams are doing.
However, it is very difficult to close my eyes once a client is suggested to throw out a good tax planning and structuring solution in favour of a less favourable solution for themselves. Of course, all these “flavour of the month” solutions come at a greater cost and not just in monetary terms.
I am still having difficulty when some advisors suggest that they only take structuring advice from carefully vetted barristers based in the UK.
While there is nothing wrong with such a cautious and commendable approach to personal wealth matters.
It is often disappointing to see that the highly regarded advisors only specialise in two jurisdictions, which are typically Jersey and Guernsey.
However, if you work with a seasoned professional advisor who is able to take the global overview of the advantages and disadvantages of global onshore and offshore jurisdictions, you will soon realise that there is much more choice available.
This brings a much more tailored solution to your global structuring effort and asset protection, which takes you outside from the overused jurisdictions and unnecessary spotlight.
Dedicated platform or private banking
Private banking arrangements are useful for certain investment goals’ strategies.
However, it is not the right avenue to make cross-border multi-currency transactions. By definition, the purpose of private banking is not transactional.
Once investments are made a long-term and not a short-term strategy is undertaken. It is always a great solution to receive additional funds for investment purposes.
Frequent withdrawals are scorned. You are building a long-term relationship with the bank, the dedicated banker and their team.
Retail banking is more appropriate for a number of different transactions. However, this does not solve the problem of making high value cross-border transactions in multiple currencies.
There are retail payment platforms that may handle cross-border transactions in multiple currencies. However, these platforms are not suitable for high-value transactions above £1M.
Therefore, we developed our own bespoke platform to facilitate high value cross-border transactions in multiple currencies. The typical value of the single transaction is above £1M.
Seek out the Expert
In the UK, the professional services market is highly saturated and specialised.
It can be quite a task to find the right advisor for you who understands your specific needs and circumstances and is able to work with you.
You may be tempted to assemble a team of specialist advisors in the hope that you will receive the global overview of your global wealth affairs.
However, the result achieved can be highly disappointing in fact as it lacks the global overview and the ability to connect the necessary dots for you as the client.
I have been working solely with ultra and high net worth individuals and families, like you. I have been advising you on onshore and offshore trust, corporate and fiduciary structures.
I added expertise in UK tax and immigration as I saw how much my clients struggled in obtaining the right professional advice tailored to their specific needs and requirements.
I have also added a bespoke platform to handle cross-border high value transactions, which are typically above £1M.
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Saule Voluckyte, M.A.E.S, LL.B, FAIA
I have been working exclusively with UHNWI in Mayfair, London since January 2008. I built specialist knowledge and expertise required to serve ultra high net worth individuals investing, operating and relocating to the UK or Switzerland.
Within the industry, I am the single adviser who is able to traverse the different areas of expertise and bring a comprehensive approach across: global structuring, UK immigration, international taxation and FOREX to develop their global wealth strategy, while they build, grow and expand their wealth worldwide.
Previous experience as one of the senior advisors for the government, made me a go-to person when delicate and uncomfortable scenarios involving heads of state need to be handled with care and preserve privacy.