An Expat Canadian in Japan, Finds A Way To Invest



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One of my readers (an expat Canadian named Jon) was looking for investment options in Japan. 

He wanted to invest with low cost index funds, but found nothing available.  As a result, he opted for a Singapore-based brokerage–the same one I use.  Best of all, he didn’t have to fly to Singapore to open it.  Here’s the story, in his own words below:

Andrew,

The process of opening a DBS Vickers Securities trading account while living in Japan as a Canadian non-resident was relatively easy. Initially I thought that I would have to visit Singapore but once I looked into it further, there was no need, as I chose not to open a bank account in Singapore and I only wanted to open a foreign market trading account (not one for trading on the Singapore market).

The first step was to fill out the Individual/Joint Application Form. I had a few questions so I contacted DBS Vickers and they walked me through this 2-page form over the phone. Next I needed to sign a form which DBS Vickers provided which acknowledged I was a Canadian citizen residing outside of Canada. I also had to sign Standing Instructions for Foreign Markets for Clients Trading Online. Finally I signed a W-8BEN which is a United States Tax Withholding Form. In addition to the above mentioned forms, I needed to send a notarized copy of my passport. I sent these documents through registered mail to Singapore.

In the mail, two weeks later, I received a letter titled Online Trading Account Information (with Trading Representative) which asked me to register my trading account to accept Second Factor Authentication (2FA). After completing that simple process online, as directed in the letter, I waited two more days to receive, by mail, a new password. Two days after that I received the 2FA device. The next week I received my Registration Code.

What I thought was the final step in the process was transferring money from my Citibank account in Japan directly to DBS Vickers Security in Singapore. Since I was going to trade in both Canadian and US Dollars, I had to send two separate transfers. The detailed information on how to transfer money can be found on the DBS Vickers website. Although my bank charges a fee to send the money, DBS Vickers does not charge any fee to receive it.

I ran into a hiccup after I deposited money as I still was not allowed to trade. I am still not 100% sure why this happened but my DBS Vickers Trading Representative said that if I took the online SGX e-Learning System quiz I would instantly be qualified to trade. It took me about an hour to work my way through the tutorials and I passed the quiz with only two wrong answers (which proves it wasn’t a hard quiz, as I’m no genius).

In total, the process took about three weeks to set everything up. The DBS Vickers customer service department is fantastic. I phoned them at least five times when filling out the forms and they answered all the questions instantly. I am happily trading now and looking forward to the markets to take a downswing as I have another deposit to make in the near future.

I hope people are able to find this helpful.

Jon

 

 

 



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andrew hallam

andrew hallam

I'm a freelance finance writer, lucky enough to have been nominated as a finalist for two Canadian National Publishing Awards. I'm also the author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School, a book explaining how I became a millionaire on a teacher's salary, while still in my 30s. Working to empower people financially, I'm available to motivate and inspire people on basic retirement planning and index investing. I'm happy to comment on your questions, first, please read the Terms of Use.

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90 Responses

  1. Sasha says:

    Hi Andrew,

    So DBS Vickers is still a good option? In one of your articles you said the fees had gone up a lot. Is it still good compared to other companies?

    Also do you know anything about investing in ETFs with Charles Schwab?

    • Hi Sasha,

      Schwab has the lowest cost ETFs on the market, currently. They're excellent products.

      Yeah, DBS raised its commissions, and I was pretty upset about that. But…the other brokerages have less beneficial exchange rate spreads. Choose your poison. Having said that, brokerages in Singapore (when buying ETFs) are a million times better than the actively managed platforms that are so prolifically sold.

      Cheers,

      Andrew

  2. T Dekyong says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I'm wondering if you have considered Saxo Capital Markets as your brokerage? They don't charge custody fees, etc. Just min US$15 commission. Or are they more risky because they're not a local brokerage?

    Many thanks,

    Dekyong

  3. Sasha says:

    So I contacted DBS Vickers and unfortunately they can't help me. I contacted Vanguard in the UK and it seems I might be able to invest with them. I am going to contact Vanguard in the States as well, they can only say no.

    So now I might have Schwab and hopefully Vanguard UK. I would be putting in a lump sum and then adding to it monthly. I originally wanted to invest in index funds so I am thinking that Vanguard might be best.

    Does it make any sense to have money in 2 brokerage firms?

    And what are your thoughts on bonds at the moment? Should I just have some cash and indexes for now.

    Any advice?

    Thanks.

    • Sasha,

      You'll pay capital gains taxes if you invest in the UK, and Vanguard USA will say no. Call DBS Vickers back. They will allow you to do this, but they are filled with some ignorant reps that would rather say no than look into it. Do not give up on DBS Vickers…dozens in your boat have done it before you.

      Andrew

  4. Sasha says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Schwab said I can invest with them, that is why I hoped that maybe Vanguard US would say yes too.

    DBS Vickers said it was because of my current location. However I will take your advice and try again.

  5. Erin Belliveau says:

    Hi There,

    Wondering if you or some other Canadian (Ontario) could offer some advice. I have recently resigned from my position in Ontario. I have the opportunity to buy back 3 years of my OT pension. Is it better to follow through with the buy back option or would it be more profitable to invest as recommended on this site? Any insight would be appreciated.

    Erin

    • Hi Erin,

      I'm going to guess that your pension is a pretty good deal. But I don't know the specifics of it. If it's anything like the teacher's pension that I relinquished when moving overseas, then I would go for it and buy back the three years. It won't be cheap though!

  6. Justin Graeme Jarman says:

    Hi Andrew
    Good to be back on your website after a hiatus. I am an international teacher in Beijing. I tried to get going with DBS VICKERS in December but unfortunately China and Taiwan are the 2 countries that they won’t accept notorized documents from, so I’m waiting until this summer to get out of the county to get things notarized abroad.
    I just read one of your blog posts that confused me. It said that ETFs are coming to HK and they are not in Singapore.
    As a 40 year old Canadian in Beijing, with some compiled savings sitting in the bank doing nothing, but nothing at all put in any sort of retirement/investments, would you suggest I go the way of your traditional DBS Vikers Singapore index fund investment model or should I consider HK instead?
    I love your stuff and I’ll pretty much take any advice you have to give me as gospel!
    Thanks a million!
    Graeme

  7. Nick C says:

    Hi Andrew

    Great book and website with sometimes overwhelming information. I was following your plan with TD eseries ETF funds but then went abroad and TD changed my status to non resident. I will be working overseas for a significant period of time. I had to sign a W8BEN form and can no longer invest in those funds.

    Is it better to start thinking about opening up a DBS account like the poster or use the discount brokerage options of TD and just buy the correct indexes through stock purchases?

    I know there is a withholding tax, but saw another article explaining when that is only paid on dividends (not sure if that is correct, my mind is foggy, and you may have been talking about something else).

    • Hi Nick,

      Yes, the withholding taxes are on dividends only. You would have no capital gains taxes to pay if you moved your money to a place like Singapore. And your residency status would be solidly “non resident” without a financial brokerage in Canada. THe rules of non residency are foggy, even for accountants. But keeping few residential ties is important, and a brokerage in Canada counts as a residential tie that I (myself) don’t have the courage to keep. That’s why I keep my money in Singapore. This might help: http://andrewhallam.com/2013/05/an-expat-canadian-in-japan-finds-a-way-to-invest/

      Cheers,

      Andrew

  8. Michelle says:

    Hi Andrew and everyone else reading this post

    I just (literally) got off the phone with DBS Vickers and they said that YOU MUST appear in person (Singapore) to open your DBS Vickers account. The reason is that they have changed the policy (as of April 2013) that people NEED to have a DBS Vickers Singapore BANK account before opening a trading account.

    So lucky for those of you who were able to do this before the policy change, but the lady on the phone was pretty sure that they have just changed the policy and you are required to open it in person. Apparently someone had sent in a fraudulent application hence the change in policy.

    If anyone has experienced anything different let me know… but it looks like I am spending a weekend in Singapore!

    Michelle

    • Thanks Michelle,

      Even easier, perhaps, would be signing up for TD International, based in Luxembourg. With them, you wouldn’t have to take a test…which you would have to do online to open the DBS Vickers account.

      Here’s the link: http://int.tddirectinvesting.com/en-gb/get-started/why-td-bank-international/expatriate-investors/

      Let me know how it goes.

      Andrew

      • RJB says:

        Just a word of caution about TD International in Luxembourg as this is in the “expat Canadian in Japan” thread.
        They do not allow residents of Japan to open brokerage accounts.

        • Shannon says:

          RE. Japan based ex-pats.

          Andrew, or anyone else that may know, has it been confirmed that those expats in Japan are not eligible to register for a TD Luxembourg trading account? If anyone here can confirm, I’d appreciate it. I just registered online but my application may be rejected if this is the case.

          Finally, what currency should we select as “base” currency on the application, it provides a list of currencies. I chose Canadian. I assume that this can be modified at some point later if I would like to change it.

          Thank you.
          Shannon

          • RJB says:

            As I implied earlier, I was rejected for being resident in Japan. I went part-way through the process of opening an account but when I called them with some questions I was informed that I was not eligible.
            I followed up with an email inquiry about eligibility and received the following reply:

            “TD Ameritrade is currently unable to open new accounts for clients with mailing and/or physical addresses in Japan. This is a result of a thorough legal review of established regulations in your country. We appreciate your interest in opening an account and wish you the best in your investment needs.”

            Their concerns must have been serious because there is some anecdotal evidence that not only did they stop accepting new applications, but they terminated existing accounts of investors resident in Japan. Some more info here:

            http://the-international-investor.com/2013/td-direct-uk-closing-nonresident-accounts
            http://the-international-investor.com/2011/uk-stock-broker-accounts-nonresidents
            (in the comments section)

            That was, however, six months ago, and it’s possible that conditions have changed. I would be interested to hear if anybody has any more recent information.

          • Thanks for sharing this Shannon. It does sounds like Japanese residents may need to take a trip to Singapore to open a brokerage account with DBS Vickers.

          • Or, if you’re Canadian, you may want to try a non resident brokerage account with TD Waterhouse, based in Toronto. I believe such an account can be opened online.

          • Jeffro says:

            NOTE to Canadians:
            According to a recent internet post on a financial blog, registering a Canadian non-resident brokerage account with TD Waterhouse in Canada may trigger a CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) ‘request to file’ for that tax year, leading to a mess of paper shuffling between the CRA, accountants, and TD to resolve.

      • Russel says:

        Anyone else try the TD International? I am thinking of trying it once I get my money out of Friends Provident.

        • Bren says:

          Just some recent info, I recently opened a TD International Account and they have classified VUN and VDU (from the TSE) as “complex instruments”. Because I have less than 1 year of trading experience I failed their aptitude quiz (It was all “do you understand…” Yes/No questions and “how many years of experience do you have trading _______ products?” questions). I am however allowed to purchase XWD, VEE and VSB, so my portfolio is set up, but just a word of warning. Maybe fudge your experience if you’re opening an account there.

      • Kelly says:

        Hi Andrew,

        I ended up going to Singapore and opening accounts with DBS Vickers (as I’ve written in a post in reply to Michelle’s post). I have not transferred any money into the accounts yet, as I am waiting for some documents in the mail.

        Do you think the TD International account a better way to go?

      • Michelle says:

        Hi Andrew and everyone

        Thanks for the information. I have successfully been able to open my TD Direct Investing account YAY! And it was quite simple and straight forward. It took a while on my part because I was also in the process of renewing my passports and then I needed to update my Thai visa and such. But when I finally got my notarised copy from the Embassy (which is super easy to do) I sent off all the documents. A week or two later, a call was made, the information confirmed and I received all the information I needed to get access to my account.

        So now all the fun stuff starts. I have been able do a little research and based on all the advice I’ve read throughout this blog I think I am going to go with the following…

        20% VCE Vanguard FTSE Canadian Index ETF
        20% VTI-N Vanguard Total Stock Market E.T.F. (which I believe is the US S&P 500 Index fund)
        20% VEA Vanguard FTSE Develop Mkt ETF
        40% VSB-T Vanguard Cdn Short Term Bond

        Thoughts?

        Michelle

        • Jeffro says:

          Dear Michelle,

          Thanks for sharing.

          I’m also a Canadian living overseas, looking to pull money out of high-fee, actively managed funds and into ETFs at TD International in Luxembourg.

          One question, and I’m assuming you’re a non-resident Canadian for tax purposes: What are your tax obligations to Canada or any other country, for maintaining an investment account at TD International in Luxembourg?

          Namaste : – )

          Jeffro

          • Michelle says:

            Hi Jeffro

            I believe that I would normally pay the 25% non-witholding tax on any interest gained on the investment… However if there is a tax treaty with the country that you reside in, then you might not have to pay the full 25%. I’m a little unsure of how that works – if someone has a better explanation please do!

            This might be a reason why I might NOT invest in the Canadian Index fund for the time being. I have no plans to go back to Canada in the immediate future, so I might go with someone else’s suggestion of keeping it simple.

            Good question, anyone else know the answer?

    • Kelly says:

      Hi Michelle,

      I experienced the same thing. So I went to Singapore for a few days at the end of August and opened both a bank account and a brokerage account. The bank account was opened straight away (I didn’t need to make an immediate deposit thought) and the brokerage account needed a few days to be approved. When you open the bank account they give you a DBS iB Secure Device (which I haven’t used yet, but I believe it generates codes that you need to log into your accounts) and you use the same device when accessing your brokerage account. I am now waiting to receive some documents in the mail so I can start trading :)

      Just a note: you have 2 options of bank account, a SGD account which you need to maintain $SGD5000 or a multicurrency account which you need to maintain $SGD3000 to avoid any fees. The fees are $2 for the SGD account compared to $7.50 for the multicurrency. I choose to take the multicurrency account because I would prefer invest the extra $2000!

    • Toby says:

      Hi Michelle and everyone else,

      I set my account up with TD Direct International several years ago. I am from New Zealand and resident in China when I set it up. It was easy to do. I filled in the paperwork and they opened the account right away, I do remember that they phoned me and warned me that stocks can fluctuate in price and that it was possible that I would lose money.

      Since opening the account I have never had a problem with it. I find it easy to use. Whenever I contact them by secure mail or by phone they reply/answer right away and are polite and efficient.

      I follow a similar strategy where I hold the following ETFs:

      VTI – Vanguard Total Stock Market. 30%
      VEA – Vanguard First World. 30%
      BSV – Vanguard Short Term Bond. 40%

      At this point I am a citizen of the world and I am not sure where I will retire. This portfolio will suit me fine wherever I end up living in the future. I keep thinking about changing the bond ETF to the iShares International government short term bind ETF – ISHG. I may do that at some point but want to avoid the selling and buying fees.

      I don’t know how much money you are investing but I will say that for me, three ETFs is enough. I try to add monthly to my portfolio and if I had more than three ETFs it would take a lot of work to try to keep it all in balance at the designated percentage weightings. You could get three ETFs by replacing VTI and VEA with VT, the Vanguard total world stock ETF. That is some feedback from the practical side of investing. Remember that the transaction fee at TD Direct is about $35 (depending on the exchange rate with the Euro) so if you are sending $3,000 or $4,000 per month to the account, you only want to do one transaction to minimise these fees. Perhaps you have oooodles of more cash to invest than that, then four ETFs maybe fine for you. That is a decision that you must make.

      One point, I am unsure what you mean by VTI-N. I assume you mean VTI. If you do then it is not a S&P500 ETF, it represents the whole USA stock market covering small cap, mid cap and large cap stocks. I would prefer a total stock market ETF than a S&P500 ETF myself.

      Good luck to you with your new account. I have had my account with TD Direct International for several years and it works like clockwork. I am very happy with it. I have posted several times about the account on another thread on this website.

      All the best with your investing.

      Toby

      • Michelle says:

        Hi Toby

        Great thanks for the advice! Helps a lot!

        Michelle

      • Vig Lacera says:

        I could not set up an account with TD International in Luxembourg. This is because my residential address is in Bangladesh, a ‘non-sanctioned’ country, according to TD. Rats. Will have to try DBS Vickers in Singapore unless somebody out there has a better idea.

  9. David Benton says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I am considering making the trip to Singapore to open an account with DBS Vickers. However, in your post above you mention that it is not worth buying fewer than $3000 worth of ETFs.

    I am looking to invest around $300 to $500 each month, does this make the DBS Vickers ETFs route a bad option?

    If so, what is a better option of investment for this amount of money per month?

    Thanks,
    David

    • Andrew Hallam Andrew Hallam says:

      Hi David,

      The best option would be to save your money until you have a few thousand dollars to invest. There are options where the fees would be higher (with actively managed funds) but I don’t think you want to invest in those.

      Andrew

      • Tim Gascoigne says:

        I have just left DBS vickers today and did exactly what Kelly did above. Waiting for paperwork to be sent to KL.

        I am only looking to invest a lump sum and not make monthly contributions…is that possible? Or is it better to take the lump sum and just invest a portion of it each month. If I take the amount of money I am sending over from my canadian RBC account to my DBS Savings account and create a balance according to a couch potato philosophy is that ok? I am so new to this that I feel way over my head. Any advice would be appreciated!

        Thanks

        • Hi Tim,

          You can most certainly invest a lump sum and leave it. And the more money you can add over time, the better. Create that couch potato portfolio and you’ll have some solid diversification.

          Cheers,
          Andrew

  10. VWJ says:

    Have any Japanese residents had any luck opening accounts anywhere besides DBS?

  11. Mark Holmes says:

    How can a Canadian invest in a balanced fund like a Vanguard Life Strategies / Target Retirement fund? These don’t seem to be available through Vanguard Canada. Are there any funds that rebalance themselves available to Canadians? I understand that ING Canada has Streetwise funds, which are similar, but as an expat (living in Cairo and probably moving on to Asia in the next couple of years) I’m assuming they are not available to me. Actually ING won’t even accept overseas transfers.

    I understand the rules of rebalancing and keeping taxes/costs down, but I also know human nature might lead me to fiddle with the numbers. I would rather pay into one balanced fund and forget about it. Thoughts?

  12. Mark Holmes says:

    Also, I can’t find any reference to TD Canada’s Offshore account online. Is it some kind of secret?

  13. Mark Holmes says:

    Thanks. Damn shame. They are available in the UK, why not Canada (I have a Canadian and UK passport, but plan to retire to Canada)? I know about the Luxembourg TD link, but there were a couple of people on here who signed up for TD offshore accounts in Canada. I was looking for the link to this account.

    Thanks again. Looking forward to the new book :-)

    Mark

    • Adam says:

      Hi Mark, I think you’re referring to td Waterhouse and setting up a non resident account. It’s not an offshore account like Luxembourg. You can open one by entering any td branch. With a notary, you might be able to open one from abroad if you have a td account…

  14. Mark Holmes says:

    Yes, the TD Waterhouse accounts. I can’t find any info online. There is some info that says non-residents can open an account, but I can’t see any reference to ‘non-resident’ accounts. I could go the Luxembourg route, but would prefer to go with TD Waterhouse. Although, having said that, I don’t trust the Canadian government, so perhaps TD Luxembourg might give me more peace of mind.

    Is there a distinction between an offshore and non-resident account?

  15. Vig Lacera says:

    I’d love to hear from some expats who’ve successfully bought index funds through TD International in Luxembourg. Easy to do?

    I’m a Canadian citizen but non-resident for tax purposes. Living overseas. Deciding between DBS in Singapore or TD Intern’l in Luxembourg.

    Thanks ; )

  16. Jeffro says:

    DBS Vickers does indeed require a DBS bank account before they’ll open a brokerage account for you. I just called them.

    To apply you MUST travel to Singapore.

    According to their phone rep you will be notified on the spot if your application is accepted or rejected. The only official document needed to apply is a valid passport.

    I pressed and pressed the DBS Vickers Securities rep, hoping to apply online or through the post, but no dice.

    What a drag.

    For those expats who may wind up in Bangladesh: Set up your investment accounts BEFORE you come here.

  17. Brett says:

    Hi all, I was recently introduced to this site to which I’m very grateful.
    I’m an Aussie but resident of Japan and have been trading through Charles Schwab in the US.
    It was pretty easy to open an account with them and I’ve been happy with their service even though I don’t have a lot in there currently.
    I’m currently sitting on some cash savings which are still in YEN but I wish to convert to another currency due to the poor outlook for YEN.
    In Japan I like using Shinsei bank for the ease of converting to other currencies and their rates seem reasonable especially for platinum level customers, plus there’s one free international transfer/month for such customers. (any better alternatives out there)
    Considering the weaker Yen going forward and taxes rising in Japan, I have been considering one of the wrap funds as the sales-rep tells of the tax advantages of it in the wrapper – I’m currently being sold the Generali lump sum bond which looks enticing but the fees are pretty high. Will all those fees outweigh the taxes I’ll incur going forward, I wonder?

    I think I’m better just paying my taxes and still have the flexibility of being able to draw my money when I want.

    Now, after reading through this site, I now thinking to make a trip to Singapore to open DBS bank and trading account. Before I do so, I wonder how it can be tax free? Won’t I still need to declare my dividend earnings and any capital gains to the Japanese tax authorities at tax time? As they say there are two certainties in life, death and taxes!

    • Brett,

      If you can open the account in Singapore, you won’t have to pay capital gains taxes. Whatever you do, stay away from Generali. Do some research online and you will see why.

      An account with Saxxo bank (Singapore) would give you access to more markets than DBS Vickers, and you could buy ETFs from non U.S. exchanges, thereby bypassing the eventuality of paying U.S. estate taxes upon your death.

  18. Shannon says:

    Andrew,

    Does the Saxxo Bank benefit of not paying U.S. estate taxes upon death also exist for the TD Luxembourg International brokerage services? Also, setting up the TD Luxembourg account seems slightly complicated, however, I’m just investigating it and will no for sure soon.

    TD International Luxembourg brokerage service have told me that they do not permit applicants who are residents of Japan. However, the representative I spoke with said that there are plans to also offer international banking services, not just off shore discount brokerage services, in the future. So there are some changes coming in the future for TD Luxembourg, however, I’m not sure how / if this will positively affect Japan based investors’ options.

  19. Justin says:

    Hi Andrew
    It has been a while since you posted with these recommended ETFs. Do you still recommend these 4 if I start investing today or is there anything better on the market now?
    VCE = Canadian index
    VTI = U.S. Index
    VEA = International Index
    VSB = Canadian bond index
    Thank you
    Justin

  20. Jos says:

    Hi everyone – What an endeavour….

    I’m starting from square one (or two). I’ll be moving to Japan in a few months and only have a few thousand dollars on TD e-series. I just spoke to TD and they tell me I will not be able to purchase as a non-resident.

    Singapore seems like the place to be as capital gains in Canada is, well, higher than 0. Thus, it also seems that the best thing to do is to sell all investments in Canada and move them to Singapore. (Any objections to that?)

    Also, if I understand correctly going the Singapore way means investing via ETFs, correct?

    Thanks all!

  21. Indira says:

    I am a Canadian living in UAE, I have a property in Florida and I was thinking of investing the 1000 US dollars I make from rental (after expenses, taxes) . I was thinking of opening a Vanguard account. Do you know what sort of taxes I would be paying?.
    I dont really see an easy way to invest unless you use a company that charges high fees (such as FF and Zurich). Even If I open an account in Singapore as suggested, I would lose 2% on international transfer, currency losses and transfer fees.
    Any advice would be appreciated

    • A 2% transfer fee is nothing, compared to a 1% annual expense fee on the account’s value. You would be shocked to see the comparative math. With Zurich and company, you would pay 3.5% or more in annual expense fees. As a Canadian, you cannot open an account with Vanguard. But you can purchase Vanguard ETFs from Saxo. Don’t be too concerned about commissions and transfer costs. Annual account fees dwarf them substantially.

  22. David says:

    Hi,

    I am a British expat living in Thailand and desperate to get started investing as per Andrew’s strategies in the book. I’ve been checking out companies who I could open an account with but not getting very far.

    Any expats in Thailand out there who can recommend a decent (cheap!) brokers?

    Many thanks,
    David

    • Hi David,

      The answer to your question depends on how much money you have to invest. If you have $700K, or you’re a sweet talker with $500k and a tendency to save plenty of money, you could use a great firm called Creveling & Creveling.

      Otherwise, you could open an account with Saxo Bank, even if you live in Thailand, and wire your money to one of their locations. I have some information on them in this article: http://andrewhallam.com/2014/01/expat-index-investors-should-duck-u-s-estate-taxes/

      I hope this helps.
      Andrew

      • David says:

        Hi Andrew,

        Many thanks for reply – I hadn’t considered Saxo so am speaking to them now about opening an account.

        I did speak to DBS in Singapore, and one point of interest for expats in Thailand, is that you can take the relevant documents to one of the DBS Vickers offices in Thailand for signature verfication, and they can then mail onwards to Singapore. Therefore, no need for notarisation or personal visit to Singapore required to open an account.

        Thanks,
        David

  23. Rob says:

    I’m an expat Canadian teacher who has been non-resident from Canada for 22 years now. After an initially disastrous experience with Royal Skandia (offshore Isle of Man), I have been extremely happy with Charles Schwab in the US. Their service has been excellent, no fees, free ATM withdrawals anywhere in the world, cheques, platinum VISA debit card. I do not have a bank account anywhere — just the Schwab brokerage account. I pay withholding on dividends and interest (the rate depends on the country I am living in and tax treaties between the US and that country). Overall, I would highly recommend Schwab as a painless way to invest as long as you are comfortable doing it yourself.

    • Rob,

      You are, unfortunately, setting your heirs up to pay heavy U.S. estate taxes upon your death by using Schwab, a U.S. based brokerage. Ideally, you should also avoid all ETFs that trade on the U.S. market. That doesn’t mean you can’t get U.S. exposure. Here’s a post you will likely find helpful. http://andrewhallam.com/2014/01/expat-index-investors-should-duck-u-s-estate-taxes/

      Cheers,
      Andrew

      • Rob says:

        Thanks very much for your reply, Andrew. I must admit, I had naively never even considered that possibility. Reading through the comment thread of the post you sent was highly informative. I am in my 40’s and have a joint-tenant account at Schwab with my wife. I suppose if we both simultaneously get hit by a bus or eaten by a crocodile (distinct possibilities where we live) our kids would lose a lot to the US government. We have about $1.5 million with Schwab, all in individual stocks. I’m now leaning toward opening a TD Waterhouse non-resident account when I go back to Canada this summer. The commission rates and extra fees of the TD International seem sky high. Hopefully, this is a reasonable plan?! Again, thank you for your reply.

  24. Kailyn says:

    Hello Andrew and forum users!

    I just finished reading Millionaire Teacher last week and am now anxiously researching my investment options. Luckily I am young and just starting (unfortunately did not catch the book a year ago before I opened my portfolio with Generalii . . .). I am from Canada but teaching internationally and never taught back home, nor do I see myself doing so anytime in the distant future. I thought I knew where I was going but then reading comments on this posting left me wondering again! I will be starting with a few thousand dollars but don’t have much more than that so from what I understand Vanguard is not a good option for me right now. I am a non-resident in Canada and will continue to be so want the option that best helps me save and avoid unnecessary taxing. Any recommendations? Would it be better to open a TD Waterhouse non-resident account this summer? I live in Eastern Europe so Singapore isn’t exactly a quick jaunt away but if that seems the best option I am sure I could work it into a holiday next year . . . any recommendations or personal experience would be helpful as I’m just dipping my toes in the water here!

    Cheers, Kailyn

  25. Alex says:

    Hi Andrew and Forum users! I am in the same boat as Kailyn but living in the middle east. I was thinking of opening with TD direct incest in LUxembourgs (around 15000) and then a certain amount every month. If i am a non-resident of Canada, would my money be safe if ever i return there in 5-10 years? Please advise:)

    Thanks!

    • Hi Alex,

      Are you asking if you could keep your money there after repatriating? That would likely be considered tax evasion. It would be wiser to close the account before repatriation, bring it home to Canada, and open a brokerage account to do much the same thing. Your assets would not be taxed on arrival.

  26. Adam says:

    I don’t think it’d be tax evasion unless when Alex returns he doesn’t claim the gains during income tax time.

    Is TD Direct Investment illegal to residents of Canada? If so, then you’d just transfer your assets over to a Canadian brokerage upon coming to Canada. All above board from what I can tell.

    • You’re right Adam. It wouldn’t be. But I’m still not sure what question he was asking.

      • Mark Holmes says:

        If he kept it at TD Direct in Luxembourg after repatriating, when he sold stock, wouldn’t he be liable to pay capital gains based on the original purchase price of the stock? I thought it was best to sell up everything before returning to Canada (and becoming resident again), and only then transfer all your recently cashed in stock money back to Canada.

  27. Jerry says:

    Pardon if I’ve posted this twice…

    I do have a longstanding TD Direct account in Luxembourg and they very emphatically tell me it must be closed once I repatriate to Canada. Now for the fear factor – yes, I am told that there will be no tax exposure when I repatriate those funds and open a new, resident account in Canada but does anyone have firsthand experience with this? Has anyone taken professional advice concerning the repatriation process?

    IF one wished to leave these assets offshore (with NO intent of subterfuge or evasion) is there a brokerage available outside Canada who can deal with residents?

  28. Chris says:

    Hi Andrew. I am an expatriate Canadian living in Japan and teaching in a university here. I am looking to invest in Index Funds, so Jon’s post regarding DBS Vickers in Singapore struck a cord with me. I wonder if you could ask him if he’s mind forwarding his e-mail address to me. I’d like to contact him with questions I have about the process he went through with DBS Vickers, as well as tax liabilities under Japanese law for Canadians who invest in Index Funds.

    Thanks and best wishes…

    Chris

  29. Eric says:

    I can’t figure out if this is a blessing or a curse. I’m dual citizen Canada / U.S.A. I’m more likely to return into Canada or pass on assets to Canadian family. I guess I can invest as a Canadian but still pay Uncle Sam no matter what I do. I’m just not sure what the best way to approach this is..? I’ve had funds invested via ‘Sharebuilder’, which I’ve been tempted to liquidate and start a DBS Vickers account, though in the application process they ask numerous questions as to if you are an American citizen. Must be other internationals out there with multiple citizenships..? The entire thing feels more trouble then it’s worth as if I should renounce a citizenship to save on tax.

  30. Lee Ferguson says:

    Dear Andrew,

    DB Vickers also have offices in Bangkok. As a U.K expat currently working in Bangkok but possibly moving to another country is it not better for me to open an account with DB Vickers in Thailand and not Singapore?

    Best regards,

    Lee

  31. Leigh says:

    I thought I’d share my recent experience trying to open account with DBS in Singapore.

    I stumbled upon this post about Japanese residents wanting to open account last year. As I’m in the same boat living in Japan, I was convinced this is exactly what I’m looking for. I corresponded a lot with DBS via email over the past few months and flew out to Singapore for a few days at the end of January.

    When I got to the branch at Marina Bay I was told I’d have to open a bank account with DBS at first. So I filled out the application with a staff member and was told that I’d have to apply for the trading account at a different counter. Ok, so later on I was with another staff member going through the trading account application. Here’s where I hit a wall. As I had no bank account in Singapore I was asked to bring along proof of my address in Japan. I’d brought along a bank statement, phone bill, City Tax bill, but was told that as none of them had the address written in English, they were unacceptable and there was no way around it. After some phone calls with my bank in Japan and then again with DBS’s help desk, I was told that if my DBS bank account were approved, I’d later on have no problem opening a trading account. I had a bunch of air miles saved up by now so I was thinking of coming back to Singapore and wrapping this all up once and for all. Fast forward two weeks later to today.

    I had sent an email a few days ago to DBS to see what was taking so long to hear about my bank account application. Today I got an email saying they couldn’t find any record of my application. I called them explaining that I was definitely there. After taking a few more details from me the rep said someone would look into it further and call me. I got the call and my application was rejected. No explanation. I asked for one but they just had nothing to say.

    So, if you’re coming from Japan or elsewhere to open an account with DBS, my advice would be to be careful. I was told that if I bring x,y,z to the branch, things should be ok. I guess I would feel slightly better if DBS would explain why my application was rejected, but in hindsight I feel as if the left hand there doesn’t know what the right is doing. I probably could’ve applied on a different day and had a different case manager go through my application and had it all approved. Now I’m back at square one and wondering about the alternatives, but it’s not like I can just hop over to Singapore anytime I feel.

    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents. I hope it helps others out.

  32. brett says:

    Hi Leigh,
    That’s really disappointing to hear. I had hoped to follow through and do as you tried but as I live in rural Japan, I’d put it off. I don’t know how long you’ve been a Japanese resident but once you go beyond the 5 year mark, you fall into the Japanese government’s hands. Doors are being closed rapidly to Japanese residents looking for better investment options outside Japan so this may not necessarily be a problem with DBS. I had to switch trading accounts in the US from Ameritrade as they would no longer hold accounts for Japanese residents, so I switched to another broker however in talking to them recently they no longer allow Japanese residents to open new accounts so I think it’ll only be a matter of time before I’ll be told I’ll need to move on again.

    Further to the dismay of Japanese (permanent) residents (and Japanese nationals), a friend recently sent me this link. http://www.eytax.jp/pdf/newsletter/2015/Japan_tax_alert_09_Jan_2015_e.pdf

    Perhaps this is a concerted effort to help reduce the speed of the population drop…tax the rich b#$”ards if they try to leave!

    And further, they have you covered if the stress of that causes you to pop your clogs…
    http://www.eytax.jp/pdf/newsletter/2015/Japan_tax_alert_09_Jan_2015_e.pdf

    Perhaps a warning to foreigners wanting to live or work in Japan, “come and play but don’t stay”

  33. Leigh says:

    Hi Brett

    That’s some pretty concerning news you found out about even more new taxes coming into effect. The funny thing is I just got my permanent residency here in Japan but in recent times I feel more and more that Japan is just becoming a bad place to stay. There aren’t many options for expats looking to invest here as there is and now they’re making it difficult for anyone who wants or needs to.

    I don’t know if Singapore banks are officially closing off ties with customers resident in Japan yet. DBS Vickers told me a few months ago that it wouldn’t be a problem. Yet here I am having been told my application was rejected. I’m going to talk to a few more banks in Singapore over the next few days. I may even consider Hong Kong. I’ll post my findings here.

  34. Jane says:

    Leigh, please do update on the situation. I’m also a Canadian expat in Japan, looking to open an account for investing in index funds. From what i’ve read, the only option is DBS Vickers in Singapore. There must be something else …. Andrew, can you comment on the options currently available to Japan-based expats?

  35. Eric says:

    DBS V said to me no accounts from Japan permitted, and no one who is not resident of Singapore permitted.

    E.

  36. Leigh says:

    I should point out that I’m actually a New Zealander. This is an important point because the clerk at DBS Vickers had me sign a form during the application to confirm that I am not a US or Canadian citizen, nor do I have any residential ties to those countries. These were the only countries they said they would not accept applications from. @Eric they told me before I traveled to Singapore that residents of Japan would be ok, but as Andrew has pointed out, your mileage may vary when dealing with DBS staff. I can’t say I’ve been that impressed with their customer service. Too many variant answers depending on who you talk to there. Once you get an account there, it’s probably plain sailing, but needless to say I won’t/can’t apply there again.

    Some better news though. Saxo have told me that they will accept applications from Japanese residents. They need a letter of intent and some other documents. I’m waiting to hear back from them ( it’s Chinese New Year ) but it sounds as if this application can be done by mail. Again, I will update any findings here.

    • rjb says:

      That’s interesting about Saxo but you should double check.
      I contacted them last year and although they initially told me there would be no problem applying from Japan, they then told me it wasn’t possible. It could be that their policy has changed, or just another case of different people giving different answers.

      If that does fall through, try OCBC. I went with them in the end and had no problems, although I did have to visit Singapore in person.

      • Hello Adam,

        This frustrates me a great deal because expatriate Canadians ARE eligible to invest using DBS Vickers, even if they do live in China. When you speak to someone at a bank that doesn’t know better, sometimes they don’t do the smart thing and look up the truth. That rep, from the bank, deserves to fall in a puddle this week. I am really sorry for your troubles on this.

        Andrew

  37. Charlie says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I trust that you are doing well.
    I’ve been burnt by FP, bought your book, opened a Saxo account, put cash in the account. But have one question before I take the plunge.

    I live in Dubai and opened the Saxo account through their Denmark head office. I was told that it made no difference where I opened it and that I could be serviced by either Dubai or Copenhagen.

    Is this true and does it make any difference?

    Warm regards,
    Charlie

  38. Adams says:

    I am curious to hear an update on you situation Leigh.

    I am a Canadian living and working in China. I was in Singapore last week and tried to open an account with DBS Vickers but was not approved because, I was told, I was Canadian and not a resident in Singapore. Since being back in China I have contacted DBS in Hong Kong to see if I could open an account there but again was told that they would not open accounts for Canadians (or Americans).

    Unfortunately I didn’t have time to look into OCBC or Saxo when I was in Singapore and I am now trying to get information from though about the possibility and logistics of opening an account there or with Saxo in Hong Kong.

    I am curious to hear if any other Canadians have had a similar problem with DBS recently. I am curious to know if it was the cut of my jib they didn’t like or if there are actual barriers to Canadian expats opening accounts in Singapore now.

    • Hello Adam,

      This frustrates me a great deal because expatriate Canadians ARE eligible to invest using DBS Vickers, even if they do live in China. When you speak to someone at a bank that doesn’t know better, sometimes they don’t do the smart thing and look up the truth. That rep, from the bank, deserves to fall in a puddle this week. I am really sorry for your troubles on this.

      Andrew

    • Tim says:

      I am a Canadian living in Malaysia and opened my account with DBS vickers just last year – no trouble at all. I wouldnt leave the bank until you get the truthful answer which is that it should not be a problem unless something drastically has changed…..

    • Adams says:

      I have since received positive replies from OCBC and Saxo in Singapore. The Saxo rep I spoke to in Singapore also directed me to the Shanghai branch for help. I’m not sure if they can help me with the opening of an account in Singapore but it would be very convenient if they can. I will be sure to update when I have things sorted out.

  39. Leigh says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Adam’s experience is consistent with what I encountered at DBS a few weeks ago. I had to sign a statement saying that I am not a US or Canadian citizen/resident. They said they will not open accounts for these nationalities. I’m neither, but still got rejected. I think the ship may have sailed on DBS. They don’t appear to be very transparent or good with customer service either.

  40. Aaron says:

    Hey Andrew and all,

    I have been considering flying down from Beijing to Singapore to set up the DBS Vickers account as mentioned above. I have emailed there customer service about the issues, here was their response, just thought I’d share it in the thread.

    “Dear Aaron,

    Thank you for your email.

    There are no restrictions for Non-resident Canadians to open both a bank
    and trading account.
    However, you do need to take note that all bank/trading account opening are
    subjected to approvals, and this process does not apply to just Canadian
    citizens are in fact applies to all account opening; foreign and local.

    We therefore seek your kind understanding for this matter and that there is
    no way of a guaranteed account opening.
    You are not required to book an appointment for account opening as our
    staff are well versed in the account opening process, local or otherwise.

    Hope that answer your queries.

    Have a great day ahead.”

    Doesn’t really give me the confidence to fork out the cash for the trip! Thinking maybe TD International, but waiting for their updated fees in April to see if it’s cost effective or not. Thoughts?

    Regards,
    Aaron

    • Adams says:

      Hi Aaron,

      It sounds like you are preparing and doing the proper leg work before flying to Singapore. I think that part of the problem I recently had trying to open an account there was due to the fact that I didn’t plan for the possibility of meeting up with bank officials who may have been misinformed. As Andrew said, “When you speak to someone at a bank that doesn’t know better, sometimes they don’t do the smart thing and look up the truth.”

      My process got tripped up on the opening of a bank account with DBS. DBS Vickers told me that they liked to their clients to have a “relationship” with the banking arm prior to opening a trading account. Was this a necessity or a suggestion? I don’t know. The person I spoke with in the bank when I went in basically told me that I wouldn’t be able to open an account with Vickers and therefore would not be approved for a bank account, but asked if I wished to continue the application process. I did, of course, continue with the application and assumed that this person just wasn’t fully aware of the rules and regulations of governing DBS Vickers. I thought that any misunderstanding that this person had about my eligibility for a trading account would be worked out behind the scenes during the approval process. Obviously, this was an inaccurate assumption.

      If I were to try it all over again, which I might in the near future, I would be better prepared going in and make sure that I was speaking with the right people about my situation. I would also be prepared to speak to a few of the other companies, Saxo, OCBC, etc. about opening an account and possible starting the application process there as well. Put out two or three applications and make a decision on who to use after approvals come back.

  41. Neil G says:

    Be aware TD (luxembourge) has recently changed their fees.

    http://int.tddirectinvesting.com/~/media/td-bank-international/forms/new-pricing-pdf-en.ashx

    Basically, they have replaced their quarterly 0.05% charge with a flat quarterly fee of 25 euros / or 45 euros if no trades have been made that quarter.

    Not sure how this affects the comparison between TD and Saxo..

    • This makes TD very appealing. Thanks Neil.

      • Anna says:

        Hey Andrew,
        do you think it’s still a good deal if I’m unable to make a quarterly trade with the 25 euro fee being 1% or less of my investment?

        • Hi Anna,

          I would like to help with your question. But could you contextualise it further with more background information, and more specifics. What kind of account are you speaking about? Is it an account of ETFs? (ie. index funds)

          Cheers,
          Andrew

          • Anna says:

            Thanks Andrew!

            I read your Expat recently (I found it quite eye-opening!) and I’m trying to follow your advice while shopping around for brokerage.

            I’m trying to stick to the rule of keeping the fees at 1% of the investment or less. So in case of TD’s new fees, I’m thinking that I need to do 2 things:
            A) start with investing a lump sum of at least €10 000 – with account fees at €25 per quarter, that would keep them at 1% annually
            B) then invest at least €1500 each quarter, paying €14.95 per trade on ETFs (I’m set on a couch potato ETF portfolio)

            While I can easily do B, it’ll take me a while to get to A.

            Meanwhile I already feel like a sucker because I’m practically hoarding cash in a mattress (basic savings account). So not sure what to do for the time being.

            While I see why TDs new fees are a good deal for those with a significant amount of assets, I suppose that starting without a significant lump sum will mean that my investments will be eaten away by the fees?

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