The Monaco Wealth Forum took on a life of its own on March 17 in Monte-Carlo. In its third edition, the Forum brought together a range of top speakers from a broad spectrum of expertise, and in keeping with previous events the Forum looked to the challenges and promises of the future rather than, as so often happens at similar events, a look back at specific corporate achievements. Sponsors of the event were Cyprus Developers Alliance and Henley & Partners.
Ambassador Henri Fissore welcomed speakers and participants with an upbeat address on the benefits of investing in the Principality. Monaco has specific challenges, particularly its small area – the Principality is the smallest country in the world after Vatican City. However, the economy is booming and a total of 46 countries have lower GDP. Monaco has the highest income levels globally,
Hugh Wade-Jones, one of two founders of Enness International, bore witness to the attraction that Monaco holds as his company has established its first base outside the UK with an office in Monaco. Enness is aiming to become the top HNW mortgage broker worldwide within 12-18 months, With Dubai also in the running, Enness chose Monaco not only as its first office outside UK but also its eventual global base.
Christopher Cruden of Insch Capital Management entertained his audience with a tongue in cheek speech during which he pointed out that asset managers have just two tasks: pick a time period of analysis that favours you, and try to impress clients by the size of their portfolio.
Caroline Garnham, who has a 35-year track record in private client practice, reminded the Forum that tax advising has become toxic, and more recently lethal at the sharp edge where tax avoidance approaches tax evasion. Since 2008 banks have paid $321 billion in fines. Banks have stopped advising on tax matters, while trusts are becoming ever more important for HNWis. In the Bahamas, trusts can protect assets but allow family control.
On the hot topic of Citizenship by Investment, Hakan Cortelek of Henley & Partners put Malta at the top of the list of favourable jurisdictions in Europe, while Nick Stephens of NTL, which is specialised in the Caribbean where it is registered in four out of five jurisdictions, stressed the importance of family security and a choice of jurisdictions. James Deen, representing Albany, Bahamas, said the company has processed 278 property sales, from $5 million up. There are no minimum days of residency required in the Bahamas, and buying property enables residency, not citizenship.
Cyprus was put in the spotlight by one of the main sponsors of the Monaco Wealth Forum, the Cyprus Developers Alliance. Advantages of Cyprus include the fact that it is a EU member, allowing travel to other EU states, David Petrosov said. Recent oil discoveries, low taxes, and an expected increase in tourist numbers as new hotels and casinos opens, are also major attractions. The education system follows the British model, and several UK universities have opened Cyprus campuses. Cyprus also has one of the lowest crime rates in EU, and 95 percent of the population speaks English. Cyprus is also one of the most cosmopolitan countries in Europe, only after Luxembourg, and has a good and positive business environment with its legal system based on English law. The lack of pollution attracts Chinese investors.
Citizenship by Investment in Cyprus is proving more and more popular, with months to approval and a three-month wait. There are no residency requirements. Investments must be held for three years and then can be liquidated. A Cypriot passport is ranked 14th in popularity. Dual citizenship is allowed and immediate family are included. No donation is necessary, just investment, and the paperwork needed for the application process isn’t onerous.
Dr Tahir Akhtar, a ‘doctorpreneur’ addressed the Forum on the topic of networking and its vital importance. “Your net worth is your network,” he said. On the subject of alternative investments, Antonio Cecere, of Cecere Monaco, underlined the attractiveness of watches, not only as an appreciating asset when carefully chosen, but as a highly mobile holder of value. Real estate: Potios, China, difficult to move money offshore. US, 200+ private jets, compared to 10,000+ in the US. Sig percentage of Chinese HNWs prepared to leave during the year, second largest number worldwide after France.
The Forum was fortunate in having as one of its star speakers the US real estate expert, Olivia Hsu Decker. In a Wall Street Journal profile of Miss Decker, it said “If you have a very expensive home to sell, her name comes to mind before anyone else’s.” The San Francisco Chronicle described her as: “Perhaps the nation’s best known residential real estate broker.” Olivia updated the Forum on emerging trends in top-end property sales and purchases.
No Wealth Forum with international themes would be complete without an expert on art as an investment vehicle, and the Monaco event was fortunate to be able to call on distinguished author and broadcaster Michel Santi, a member of the World Economic Forum (Davos), the Institut Français des Relations Internationales and the NGO Finance Watch. Among his books are Capitalism without a Conscience, and in French: L’Europe: chroniques d’un fiasco and Splendeurs et misères du libéralisme. In May 2015, Michel founded Art Trading & Finance, art advisors, in Geneva.
Iain Stewart-Linnhe, a strategic analyst and adviser to to high-level clients, stressed the accuracy of Caroline Garnham’s point about advisers being taken out. Rolls-Royce has recently been fined American-style, he said. Not just in jest, he said that in France families with four children pay less tax, but since the rules are written in French, no-one else knows about it. “That’s why the French all have 8 children,” he added.
Alastair Galloway, the security expert operating two specialised companies, pointed out that threats to security do not have to be physical in this Internet age. Cyber attacks are increasingly problematic. Alistair listed the top causes for concern in the world in 2017, with several items on the list coming as a surprise to many attendees.
The Forum was brought to a close by Patrick Jephson, who runs a consultancy company in Washington DC. His experience and knowledge spans many disciplines, but it was on the topic of his time as Private Secretary to Princess Diana that Patrick intrigued his audience, stressing the importance of personal relationships in professional life.
The Monaco Wealth Forum was followed by a champagne reception and an informal dinner at the Pacific Restaurant, its success setting the scene for future Wealth Forum events. PHOTO: Patrick Jephson