Dissecting Zurich International Life

andrew hallam

andrew hallam

I’m a financial columnist for Canada’s national paper, The Globe and Mail, as well as for AssetBuilder, a financial service firm based in Texas. I’m also the author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School (Wiley 2011) and The Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing: From Millionaire Teacher to Millionaire Expat (Wiley 2015). My mission is to educate, motivate and inspire people on basic retirement planning and best practices for investing, using evidence-based strategies. I'm happy to comment on your questions. However, please read the Terms of Use.

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49 Responses

  1. Hi Andrew,

    Doesn't exactly sound like a good deal, does it.

    I've never dealt with their International Life, but I did switch to Zurich a few years ago for my car insurance here in Japan.

    Excellent move. They gave great discounts for signing up online, paying all at once, as well as signing up two months before the coverage began. With two additional years of discounts (they dropped my premiums each subsequent year) I'm now paying half of what I used to pay.

    No matter what, when looking at insurance, it pays to shop around.

    • Ali Enteshari says:

      you paid 4 installment that means if you quit/cancel/run away now you will lose only $2000, but I guaranty you will lose more in the future.
      I canceled after 6 years and I lost about $12,000.
      The story of %05 and %93 is just a story. It is a trick to deceive people.

  2. Colin says:

    Thanks for the info Andrew, I wish I had this 10 years ago when I signed up with them.

    I am finally looking to get out but checking my options.

    Keep up the great detailed work!

  3. Neil says:

    Your research is flawed in some areas.

    The Isle of Man is NOT a Channel Islands based tax haven. It is an independent country with it's own parliament (in fact the old continuous parliament in the world), legal structure and taxation legislation.

    It is very easy to write articles drawing from many and varied sources which are critical of Offshore Financial Planning Centres. Equally, show you choose to you could write an equally compelling article praising them and the companies that operate within them.

    There are a vast array of products available from a vast array of suppliers. Like any competitive market be it Sainsburys v Tesco or Zurich v Scottish Widows you need to research what is available and what best suits your financial goals.

    • Hello Neil,

      Thank you for your comment. I hope that you're a Zurich International rep. Interestingly, the flawed research you exemplify comes from the fact that I term "The Isle of Man" a Channel Islands based tax haven. It would be great if you could take a specific, numerical based counter to my argument about Zurich International's investment/insurance mentioned above. After all, the fact that I termed The Isle of Man a Channel Isle tax haven doesn't appear very relevant to the article's thesis. The thesis, after all, is that the Zurich International Wealth Acount is a very bad deal for investors.

      I went specifically into the Zurich International website, uncovered a sample of their funds and costs, linked to what I found, and noted their expenses in the article above. In fact, the funds mentioned on the Zurich International website have higher expense ratio costs than those for the average Channel isle funds, based on a comparison of expense ratios between Zurich International's fund offerings and the Channel Isle fund expense averages, according to the Oxford University Press publication written by Ajay Khorana, Henri Servaes and Peter Tufano. Whether it's Zurich, or the Channel Isle averages, the expense ratio costs are among the world's highest–and that's not even taking into consideration all the other painful costs to investors, which I mentioned above:

      Again, this article was about Zurich international's wealth account. Show me that my research on this account is flawed, rather than criticize the fact that this article didn't talk about an array of other financial service companies. If I'm writing about Zurich, I must stick to my thesis, which I did.

      I believe that articles like this threaten your livelihood. You are, I surmise, an advisor with Zurich or another Channel Isle company. Dissect the math above and shoot back a valid response. It would be very welcome on this blog.

      Thank you Neil

  4. Anna says:

    Thanks Neil – I got sold a Zurich IWA from HSBC over 5 yrs ago and still the fees are rolling in. Very frustrating watching the units get deducted from the different funds in the portfolio every 6 months, let alone the miserable unit price performance of the funds (seems independent of the market performance)… But the challenging market conditions I can fathom – the fees I can't… and it was all sold on the fact of flexibility to switch funds in the single porfolio account…

    So… can you recommend a trading platform for a expat in Singapore to hold ETFs, etc.? Saxo? Fidelity? Anything that's cheaper than Zurich but also with some flexibility to switch?

    Then there comes the question of when to cut your losses? Invested in '06 and '07 and now down ~14%. Heavy equities but global spread. Will the 5yr time being up really reduce the fee load??

  5. IAF says:

    Hello Andrew,

    Thank you for your analysis, and bringing this information forth to the public. Do you have any information/advice on executing a partial surrender of this Zurich International Life policy? Do you think its a good idea?


  6. NV says:

    Thanks Andrew for the information. Unfortunately I invested 6 yrs back with Citi Bank in Dubai. The current value is 60% of original investment ! I am constantly looking to get out of this. One has to be very careful with Zurich schemes!



    • Alen says:

      I am in Dubai and I have same problem.
      I have paid $750 per month for investPlus policy around $40,000 till now. They say the money I have with them is only $29,000 now. They say they invested my money in somewhere and instead of profit they got lost my money!
      What shall I do now?
      Shall I continue paying $750 / month for whole 20 years?

      • Run some mathematical numbers Alen. Only you can make this decision. Do you cut your losses and earn roughly 3% more each year somewhere else? Or do you stay with them and allow them to continue to bleed you in fees? There might be a penalty to withdraw, so use your post penalty account value as your starting point for scenario 1. Then compound that money at 9% per year. For scenario 2, do the same with a larger sum (like the current value of your portfolio today) and compound that out by 6% per year. Will you catch up?

        The money you have lost appears gone forever. Bummer. Will they give you that full amount today, or will they penalize you even further for pulling out? If they penalize you even further, use the compound interest calculator and http://www.moneychimp.com to figure out whether you come ahead or behind. I’m fairly certain you would come out ahead, but give it a go.

  7. Fernandon says:

    Andrew, your article on Zurich International Life is quite ellucidating.
    I have a long time investment with them. I contacted Zurich’s customers service email asking for my current account balance and surrender value. After nearly two weeks they still have not answered.
    I wonder if you ran accross any reports from clients who eventually faced difficulties in their surrender processes. And if you did, is there any intelligent step I could take before eventually asking for it?
    Compliments for your competent work!

  8. Merlin Xavier says:


    I am a policy holder and I need an emergecy partial withdrawal from my 5 years paid policy. I had applied 30 days back, but they are denying to pay my hard-earned money.
    With my bad experiece with this company, I can not beleive about my life policy which i am paying from last 5 years.
    No body should be under this trouble like what i am facing now.

    Merlin Xavier

  9. Andrew,

    I had applied for Insurance with Zurich many years ago. After reading this article, I am so very glad that I was not accepted for a policy with them.

    Now, almost 15 years later, I was faced with them not paying a legitimate claim caused by their insured. With your permission, I am linking this to my new website!


    • Please do Montgomery!


      • Andrew,

        The more I review the comments on your website and the longer I continue review information about insurance companies, the more convinced I am that these programs and benefits that insurance companies are selling to all of us is nothing more than legalized racketeering.

        I am almost finished writing an article for my website Zurichscrewedme.com that details how decadent Zurich and many other insurance companies are with regards to selling products not right for an individual to what I classify as “death-deny claim strategies” where the insurance company waits for the insured to die before they consider paying out legitimate claims.

        I appreciate your allowing me to link to your site and to help share the word that insurance companies are not always about what is best!

  10. mty says:

    I work for Zurich

  11. TS says:

    Hi Andrew, just discovered your blog and wanted to say thanks for the review on Zurich. I am an expat in Singapore and currently have a Vista policy with a basket of funds that includes commodities, equities and fixed income. This was recommended to me by the Henley Group 5 years ago. So far, the only reason it was slightly up the first two years seems to be the bonus they provide; otherwise, it is currently 5% underwater. I know everyone’s situation is different, but I continue to seek clarity on this and working out how to dig myself out of this hole.

    • Hi TS,

      I’m sorry to hear that you got nabbed in their net. Global markets have risen a lot over the past five years, so it’s very unfortunate (but not surprising) that you haven’t made money. These commission hungry firms set people walking up downward heading escalators with 50 pound rucksacks. Global markets are up 80% in the past five years and global markets are up 100%. Please do what you can to spread the word about these firms. http://sg.finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?t=5y&s=VT&l=on&z=l&q=l&c=vti&ql=1

    • paul says:

      Hi TS, i know this may be a bit late but the worry isn’t just the value, its also the encasement value. It is impossible to make any more on long term policies within the first 8 to 10 years. Flexibility and charges should be the key when making investment decisions

  12. Niklas says:

    Andrew, I want to thank you for an informative dissection of the quagmire that is Zurich International Life. I didn’t have the time to go through it but as my company “forcibly” subscribed me to them in my pension deal I did a search on google and your article turned up on the first results page. I felt that my plan wasn’t doing even close to the results that it should and here is the reason why. Well, not much to do about it, but still feels better to know that you’re being robbed than suspecting (maybe)

  13. Diana says:

    Hello Mr. Andrew,

    I am planning to get Zurich’s life insurance and savings insurance..Upon meeting up with one of their agent i was convinced so I’ve decided to meet her again on the 23th of this month for the settlement..but since i got time to read some reviews about their company and i have read all the comments above and nothing was positive i guess, now i have a doubt if i will still get the policy they’re offering..Can you recommend best insurance that i should get?

  14. Subbiah Shanmugam says:

    Dear Andrew,


    I am a Non-Resident Indian, presently working in Kuwait. During 2005 and 2007, I invested in 2 Zurich InvestPlus Policies through Citibank Bahrain/UAE. During March 2010, due to certain Central Bank of Bahrain stipulations, Zurich and Citibabk, Bahrain parted ways, but did not communicate with me and Zurich changed my policy records as direct customer on its own and the Policies have been butchered and bleeding till today. Nobody is of any assistance including Zurich, Citibank, Bahrain Regulatory Authority, Bahrain and Ombudsman.

    Legal opinion advises me to sue both Citibank and Zurich, but I am against it so far. I am planning to take up the matter with Citibank, Chennai, Reserve Bank of India and Indian Insurance Regulatory Authority, so that Zurich will not have an easy sailing into the Indian market.

    I’d be grateful for any advice.

    Thanks and regards,

    Subbiah Shanmugam
    Station: Chennai, India
    email: [email protected]

  15. TokyoBased says:

    Andrew — thanks for your analysis.

    About Zurich: I have IWA funds — they were the only option I was offered for investing funds I had parked in HSBC (Jersey). I’m thinking of moving them to a brokerage, where the fees are small (0.2% for some ETFs) and where there is little obfuscation smoke/mirrors, so when a fund goes up, it really goes up (and is not skimmed with fee payments for this and that).

    Only difficulty I have is being Japan based: unlike Singapore, the Jp Gov. is now preventing residents from opening overseas accounts (like the US does), so the only brokerage I found open to Jp residents is Boom in Hongkong. The danger with a brokerage is the small chance that they go broke (pardon the pun!).

    (The minor *geographical* issue pointed to above:
    the Isle of Man (in the Irish sea) and Channel Islands (close to France, comprising Jersey, Guernsey etc.) are not “independent countries” as someone said above. They do have local parliaments and have some local laws (tax etc) different from the rest of the UK. They are classified as being “British Isles”, but not “UK” (go figure…)

  16. Carolyn Smith says:

    I just surrendered my policies and they charged $400 each policy. I ended up with less than I contributed over the 12 years of the policies. Such a scam!!!

  17. Ali Enteshari says:

    Warning to everybody thinks to buy investment product from Zurich!
    I had an investplus policy with them and paid $750 / month total $41,250 in 4.5 years.
    They returned back $29,000 when I cancelled the policy after I realized I have been cheated by them.

  18. Ali Enteshari says:

    when I bought Investplus policy from them in 2009 Zurich had not a proper office in Dubai.
    In 2013 when I cancelled my policy losing $12,000 hard earned money, they had 4 big offices in the most expensive buildings in Dubai with a lot of staff!
    In the last meeting in their office in August 2013 I asked how you did this grow?, the officer answered by money of you and people like you!

  19. Vig Lacera says:

    Carolyn & Ali, thanks for sharing your unfortunate stories.
    I am in a similar position, trying to cash out a Zurich policy that has stagnated as markets have gained. Ridiculous.
    The more people are made aware of these bad deals the better. Soon it will reach critical mass. The knowledge will embed itself into the collective unconscious. In time expats of all nationalities will not fall for these schemes. It will take time, but it will happen. In the end Universal Law must assert itself and wrongs must be made right.

  20. Subbiah Shanmugam says:

    Dear Andrew,

    Good day. Please keep up the good work. I am still fighting for my rights with Zurich Int’l Life Ltd., and Citibank, Bahrain regarding two InvestPlus Policies.

    Thanks and regards,

    Subbiah Shanmugam

    • Hi Subbiah,

      Please keep me posted on how you do. Best of luck!


      • Subbiah Shanmugam says:

        I had to prematurely encash both the policies at a loss of US $ 30 K (86 K vs. 55 K) after nearly 10 years. I am going to take Citibank to task for introducing me to Zurich. How to take Zurich to task – I don’t know. IOM is hand in gloves with Zurich.


        Subbiah Shanmugam

  21. surdee says:

    hi, i am expat in abu dhabi . i am reached by ADCB(local bank) rep for selling his life insurance with critical illness benefit cover. as said they gave me a bunch of papers about the insurance . its a policy that i have to pay for only 7 years ($580) to avail a cash sum of -$100000 until my 95th birthday. also i can en-cash 5yrs total if i am withdrawing out. i am hesitant about because many term insurance in india is cheaper than this but doesnt cover the critical illness which they highlighten here. the prospectus reads a 36 list of diseases with permanant disability.
    after reading about the company i am more hesitant now. guide me please. thank you.

  22. Samuel says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I have been approached by a Zurich consultant in Bahrain for their Individual Protection Plan called “Futura” which financially supports an individual in case he/she is diagnosed with 35 critical illness or death. We spent one hour walking through the policy and he sounded very sweet. The policy wants the insurer to pay premium for 15 years. Any illness detected after 4 months onwards is eligible for 101% payment unless there is a history of the illness. Do you have any information on how this policy is ?.


  23. Ali says:

    Samuel be careful, this company is scam.
    I lost $14,000 with their INVESTplus product in 4 years when I was living in Dubai!

  24. anseret says:

    they are a ripoff! I have invested over 60k chf since 2006 but it’s only worth about 40k now but in order to close my account, I would only get 20 (20k for their fees!!!!!) I’m furious….

  25. Savara says:

    Dear Andrew,
    I am also a zurich citibank victim. Please state your expert advice in improving the funds value by reducing fund charges or any trick within there policy or should i withdraw? Present investment 100,000$. It is no growing for the last 5 years.

  26. Charlie says:

    Hello Andrew,

    Firstly thank you for this very informative blog and for flushing out the hidden charges when investing with Zurich.

    I’m also very concerned now following the endless negative accounts Zurich policy holders have shared.

    I have a whole of life insurance policy with Zurich. My monthly premiums are $500. This month I make the fourth monthly installment. While I understand you don’t comment on purely insurance schemes my insurance scheme is not entirely protection only. It is whole of life FUTURA. As you are aware, Zurich says after two years of monthly payments ~93% of the your regular monthly installments goes into an investment account whereby they say expected ~5% return. Then 5th or 10th year onwards some 98% for example goes into the investment account.

    Probably whole of life insurance scheme such as the one i mentioned above should not be looked at as an investment scheme still… It kind of is one.

    What are your thoughts?

    Charlie (Dubai Expat)

    • Hi Charlie,

      There’s a very important rule of thumb:

      Buy insurance for investing purposes. Buy investments for investment purposes. Never mix the two, or you end up duds. That’s the policy that you own, unfortunately: a shockingly poor insurance policy coupled with a shockingly poor investment platform.

      If you choose to buy insurance, make sure it’s term insurance. Never buy a whole life policy. You can google what I’ve written. It’s commonly known.


    • Ali says:

      you paid 4 installment that means if you quit/cancel/run away now you will lose only $2000, but I guaranty you will lose more in the future.
      I canceled after 6 years and I lost about $12,000 when I was living in Dubai.
      The story of %05 and %93 is just a story. It is a trick to deceive people.

    • paul says:

      Hi Charlie, I work in Dubai and these policies are ok for flexible who of life and if you have taken it for the Life and Critical Illness benefits its not a bad plan but if you have taken it for the savings side its very expensive.

  27. savara says:

    To charlie,

    Cancel now..its only 2000$ and escape from zurich…..else you will loose more in future if you continue to invest.

    This will give you peace of mind in future.

    To Mr. Andrewr Hallam,
    I recently moved my funds to AIS (automatic investment strategy) to reduce fund charges as these funds are managed by zurich. Is this a good strategy? I have 100,000usd stuck with zurich.

    • toony says:


      Just looked up about AIS 🙁 Ugghhhh *headache from bagging head against keyboard*

      You really need to take your advice too and escape from Zurich ASAP!!! AIS is simply their version of Vanguard’s Lifestyle fund (ie. all in one “retirement” fund) but with an insurance twist to it. The whole thing is clear as mud with very wishy words and purposely misleading and non-stand terms designed to purposely confuse and obfuscate 🙁

      What’s more, they outsource the work to “Threadneedle” so you are guaranteed to occur an additional layer of fees for this AIS “feature”..

      Guessing TER of whole thing is between 5-7%. Given bond returns are currently low and equity growth is in the realm of 2-5%, expected growth 3-4% at best.

      If you stay, expect your 100k USD portfolio to “grow” to about 50k in 10 years due to all their fees.
      That same 100k will grow to about 140k in 10 yrs, even with no further contribution (and assuming only 3.5% growth) if you just set up an index fund portfolio as recommended by Andrew!

      Up to you if you prefer pain of getting out now or real pain in 10 yrs!

      Good luck

  28. paul says:

    Many Advisers in the UAE are commission driven as they receive no base salary and this can influence their advice. A $2k monthly savings policy can earn an Adviser $12000 and as long as you pay for 18 months there is no financial loss to them but you will be playing catch up and are unlikely to make any profit until nearer 8 to 10 years. Andrew perhaps you should look at QROPS, or ROPs as they are known now, and the charges people face in setting these up, I have heard clients paying around GBP100k on a GBP1M pension transfer ! Scandalous when I know clients could arrange this for as little as GBP10k.

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