Dissecting Zurich International Life

Zurich International Life is an investment/insurance company with a large number of South East Asian based expatriate customers. 

zurich warningZurich International‘s successful sales team often markets products (like variable annuities) which couple people’s investment accounts with an insurance component.  In financially academic circles, it’s generally accepted that such products are expensive and inefficient, but their high commissions make them popular among salespeople who market them successfully to clients.

Let’s dissect one of their more common account types:  their International Wealth Account.

First of all, we should look at the “insurance” they offer their clients. It could be considered a luring sales carrot… if it’s misinterpreted.  Here it is, pasted directly from their website:

Life cover benefit

Your life insurance plan will be written on the basis of one or more lives insured (up to a maximum of five) on a last-death basis. The amount payable on death of the last life insured will be 101% of the plan’s cash-in value.

Yes, there is an “insured” guarantee of 101% of the plan’s “cash-in value” but what does that mean exactly?

Let’s assume that you had invested $300,000 over a period of 20 years.  The life insurance component ensures that when you die, your beneficiary will receive a guarantee of 1% more than what you invested in the insurance plan.  Beware of the language that’s used in the brochure.  If you loaned me $5, and I gave you that $5 back, I would have repaid you 100% of what I borrowed.

I called the company at the local Singapore number.  Here’s the dialogue I had with the third company representative I spoke to (the first two I spoke to could read the Life cover benefit from a pamphlet, but couldn’t explain it)

Andrew:  How much is the investor insured for?
Zurich:  They’re insured for 101% of the cash-in value of their account.
Andrew:  So if I die, for example, my wife would receive the value of my account, plus an additional 101% of the account’s value?
Zurich:  No, your wife would either receive the account value or 1% more than what you actually invested.
Andrew:  Oh…..thank you.

Does that sound good to you???

 Tax Benefits?

The insurance policy, as I mentioned in my introduction, isn’t much of a policy at all.  But salespeople do like to point out the benefits of having an investment firm with assets invested on the Isle of Man—a well-known Channel Isle tax haven.

Here’s the explanation, pasted from their website:


Zurich International Life is an insurance company registered in the Isle of Man that does not pay capital gains tax or income tax on investments held on behalf of its investors. There may, however, be a small element of withholding tax applied to investments in certain countries. In reality these will be minimal.

The attraction of no capital gains taxes on investments based on the Isle of Man becomes a mute point if you’re living in Singapore (as a non American).  If you’re investing in Singapore, you won’t have to pay any capital gains taxes on your investments—whether you invest in the European, Canadian, U.S. or Asian markets.  Singapore doesn’t charge capital gains on stock and bond market investments.


When opening a Zurich International Wealth account, you must initially deposit at least $100,000SGD, $100,000 AUD, 60,000 Euros, 500,000 HKD or $60,000 USD.

Then there’s an initial fee to open the account, but you can choose one of two payment options.

Option 1:

Zurich would charge 7% of your account’s value (or a minimum of $7000 SGD on a $100,000 SGD account)

Option 2:

Zurich would charge you smaller sums annually for the first five years: 2% the first year, another 2% the second year, and then 1% for each of the remaining 3 years.  At first glance, this might seem like a better deal.  After all, 2+2+1+1+1 also equals 7.  And instead of paying 7% up front, you could defer the payment over 5 years.  That’s what they want you to think.  And that’s the option the company probably prefers that you take.

If the account actually made money (or if you added money to it) you would be better off paying the 7% fee up front.  The second option may look better, but it’s generally there to entice people who don’t do the math.

For example, assume that a $100,000 account averaged 5% per year for 5 years.

Here’s what your account fees would amount to if you added nothing to your account.

  • Year 1:  $2,100
  • Year 2:  $2,181
  • Year 3:  $1,113
  • Year 4:  $1,122
  • Year 5:  $1,166

Without adding a penny to the account, the investor taking option 2 (paying establishment fees annually for five years) would pay $7,682 to Zurich.

If they added monthly contributions to their investments—as most people do– they would pay significantly more, of course, because their fees would be determined based on a percentage of their account size.  If someone added an additional $200,000 to their account over 5 years, they would pay exponentially for that.

Five year establishment fee charges could exceed $20,000….or more.

Yearly management charge

Unfortunately, the fees don’t stop there.  According to the website, there’s also a yearly management charge of 0.5% for accounts below $374,999 SGD.  This fee percentage lowers as the account rises in value, but the actual dollar amount reaped by Zurich (at their customers’ expense) actually increases.

Here’s an example.  Assume that you have an account of $300,000.  Your annual management fee will be 0.5% each year, or $1,500 per year.

If your account’s value was $2 million, you would pay 0.2% in yearly management fees, amounting to $4000 per year.  Paying 0.2% annually–rather than 0.5% annually– sounds like you’re getting a better deal as your account value grows. But Zurich will still reap more money in fees from a $2 million account than they will from a $300,000 account.  And here’s the kicker: it isn’t any tougher to manage a $2 million account.

Yearly Plan Charge

Take a deep breath now my friends; there’s also a yearly plan charge, which I pasted below, right off the website:

Currency Yearly plan charge

  • SGD 250
  • AUD 250
  • JPY 20,000
  • HKD 1,200
  • GBP 100
  • EUR 150
  • CHF 250
  • USD 150

Investment Advisor Fee

And just when you thought the fees would stop, I have to tell you that we’re just getting warmed up.  According to the website, if you appoint an investment advisor, you will have to pay an additional 1% of what you invest (going straight to the advisor) or a fixed percentage of your assets, up to 1% per year.

Let’s see how this could pan out.

If you took the first option, and invested $50,000 per year, you would pay $500 annually to your advisor.

If you took the second option, and an advisor took 1% of your account’s value every year, your investments would only make a fraction of what you deserve.  Have a look at how much less you would make if you were paying a 1% annual fee.

$500,000 making 7% per year for 30 years = $3,806,127

$500,000 making 6% per year (after the 1% advisor’s fee) for 30 years = $2,871,745

It’s nearly a one million dollar difference.

Cash In Charges

Interestingly, if you wish to withdraw money before a 5 year period has elapsed, there’s a “cash-in charge” as well.  With this particular plan, that fee is 8.5% the first year, and drops in subsequent years to 6%, 4%, 2% and 1% of the value.  Some people have paid much higher “cash in” charges with Zurich, so if you have a story to tell, please feel free to add your comment at the end of this post.

Product Charges

There are also product charges which won’t appear on your investment statements, but they’re expense ratio charges based on the unit trusts you own within your account.

These funds are based on the Isle of Man, and according to an Oxford University Press publication written by Ajay Khorana, Henri Servaes and Peter Tufano, the Channel Isle fund expense ratios are among some of the highest in the world.

A look at the link provided by Zurich gets more specific.  The Aberdeen Global Asia Pacific Equity Fund offered by Zurich, for example, charges a colossal expense ratio of 3.5% per year.

The lowest charge on the equity funds that I could find on the Zurich site was 1.5% per year.

Add an additional 0.5% to 1.0% for an equity trading cost (not shown in prospectuses, but a cost of trading equities within a fund) and Zurich’s cheapest equity fund would cost anywhere between 2% and 2.5% per year.

Imagine the following scenario:

You invest $100,000 and lose 7% up front to establishing charges.

That gives you $93,000 as an initial investment.

Assume that a combination of stocks and global equities average 8% annually.

The investor in this plan would likely reap the following return:

8% minus 0.5% yearly management fee, minus 1% for the investment advisor fee, minus 2% for yearly fund expenses (including internal trading costs) = 4.5% annual return.

Oh, let’s not forget the additional yearly plan charge of $250 SGD.

Granted, you could negotiate (perhaps) a lower investment advisory charge.

But on the flipside, if you aren’t careful, you could also end up paying substantially more establishing charge fees if you don’t pay your fees all at once.

Overall, it’s quite likely that an investor in such an arrangement would be giving up 3.5% per year in fees.

Doing the math:

An investor in low cost index funds (or ETFs) would pay roughly 0.2% per year in total annual fees—possibly less.

If the stock and bond markets dished out 8% per year, the hypothetical index investor would make 7.8% while the Zurich investor (based on probabilities) would make something like 5.5% per annum.

Assume that the investor is 30 years old, and they live until they’re 85.

Assume also, that at age 30, they have $100,000 in their portfolio that will grow, but they won’t touch this particular $100,000 after they retire.  Perhaps they want to give it to charity upon their deaths, or bequeath it to their children.

$100,000 minus $7000 (establishment fee) making 5.5% annually for 55 years = $1.76 million

$100,000 making 7.8% annually for 55 years = $6.22 million

If Zurich offers additional perks worth $4.46 million (that I’m not aware of) please enlighten me.

For information on how to avoid paying high investment costs, check out my book, Millionaire Teacher, also available as a Kindle edition.


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 and Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas. 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.

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75 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: sub_s2000@yahoo.com

  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.

  29. Reema says:

    Hi.. I would really appreciate to any one could response on my question.
    I am from UAE and I have a Zurich Futura plan ( whole life with VUL) payment for 10 years. I started paying July 2015 until date and my plan monthly cost is $150.00.

    Now I am planning to surrender my plan. My question is if I will surrender the plan can I have a refund (if there is how much would it be? or what I paid will be a loss.

    Your response will be highly appreciated.

    • toony says:

      An important lesson for the future: NEVER buy “Whole Life” products! Whole life combines insurance and investment together – with you, the buyer paying through the nose for 2 poor products.

      If you need insurance, buy “Term” insurance.
      If you need investment products, buy “Investment” shares/funds.

      It is unlikely you would got much back, if any at all given most of your monthly fees is just commission/profit for the company – you need to tell the company to get a firm surrender value

  30. savara says:


    As per your advice if i exit now i would loose 50% as surrender charges ie. 50,000 USD….scary as it sounds….do u advice me to exit and save remaining 50,00 usd…? any tricks within zurich to reduce surrender charges?

    To all who are in this group:
    please recommend some good funds/code from your experience which can grow.
    Let us share our knowledge and reduce damage.
    I recommend fund code: FFSEK .

    • toony says:

      This may surprise you but the 50% ‘surrender’ charges you face (ie. $50k) is just smoke and mirror – there is NO ‘surrender’ fee (you only get the amount contributed PAST 18 months)! They call it ‘surrender’ fee to exploit your human aversion to losses, in order to keep you in the trap as long as possible!

      Check out Andrew’s article just released today:
      As Tony Noto says, “That [$39,000] is gone no matter what.”

      This is key to understanding all the bs/fine print/trap of these policies:
      Basically, EVERYTHING you deposited in the first 18months (known as initial units) is the upfront, non-refundable fees you paid to just open the account! This cannot be salvage regardless of what you do – they make sure of it! 🙁

      *Note: They will pretend to ‘reduce’ your surrender charges every extra year you stay. This is just more ‘smoke n mirror’ bs – don’t fall for it! Say, for every 4k ‘reduction’ in the ‘surrender’ charges, they will creatively take $6-10k of your remaining $50k 🙁

      The net effect behind all the deceptive fine print/clauses/smoke ‘n’ mirror is that the longer you stay in the trap, the more $ they can bleed/steal from you. The amount they steal is based on % so it actually goes up exponentially as you put more and more into the account! Reducing the monthly contribution doesn’t work – fine print allows them to steal the amount based on your ‘highest’ monthly contribution, not your reduced contribution! Minimising contribution is effectively feeding them more free money!

      The trick to reduce your losses is get out asap and not give them an extra dollar, buy Andrew’s book and learn how easy and cheap it is to DIY and never fall for these traps again.

  31. Jonathan Iliffe says:

    Hi Andrew,
    Canadian here living in Vietnam. I have read both your books and have been spreading the word to many teachers here at the Canadian international school. They are very interested.
    I was in touch with DBS Vickers and they sent me an “ETF Coverage List”. I couldn’t see any of the ones you recommended in your book (namely vangaurd etf’s). Are they listed under a different name for the SGX? Can you help provide the ticker names for building the portfolios through DBS Vickers in Singapore? Thank you!

  32. Jonathan Iliffe says:

    I have found the answer to my last question. TSX is available through DBS Vickers.
    Thanks so much for your books. They’re helping A LOT of us teachers at CIS Vietnam! TDDI is not an option for residents of Vietnam and wealthbar capital gains will be not be tax free.
    Any preference between Saxo or DSB Vickers?
    Thanks again.

  33. Trevor says:

    Hi Andrew,

    In your book ‘Expatriates Guide’, you mention that Saxo Capital really tries to entice you into portfolios that will have you continually trading your stocks. I tried to ignore all this on their website by going directly to the section on ETF’s. This is what they say about ETF’s:

    ETF Disclaimer
    Exchange traded funds (ETFs) are open-ended investment funds listed and traded on a stock exchange. ETFs may have complex structures, which involve the use of derivatives. As certain investment products may have been categorized as Specified Investment Products (SIPs), please read our Risk Warning on Overseas- Listed Investment Products. ETFs are not principal-guaranteed and you may lose all or a substantial amount of the money invested. You should carefully consider whether trading in ETFs is appropriate for you based on your financial circumstances and seek independent financial consultation.

    Is this something I should be concerned about?

  34. Rizvi says:

    Hi Andrew

    Thank you for this informative article, I have a futura policy from Zurich, the payment term is of 15 years and almost half of it has passed. Currently my encashment value stands at half of what I have paid as premium. My question is will the encashment value ever be equal to the premium or even get closer to it. I am just trying to avoid loss on this

    • toony says:

      Rizvi, my generic comments for people caught in these insurance scams – hopefully it helps you understand the situation better and what to do.

      If you surrender the policy and invest in a diverse portfolio of index funds as shown by Andrew, you have a great chance to recoup all the premium and more (at end of 15 years). If you stay, you stand no chance and likely to be in a bigger hole!

      From an old post with someone asking a similar question to you:
      “To mimimise your loss, the best time to get out was YESTERDAY, they second best time to get out is TODAY and the third best time to get out is TOMORROW.”

      Good luck!

  35. Kimperative says:

    Hello Andrew, I am looking for the best options for investing a modest retirement lump sum (post mid-career resignation). I was halfway through the paperwork to transfer to a Zurich pension plan when I saw this article which seems to focus on Zurich’s insurance products, not pension plans. But it has given me pause and I’d like to do more due diligence. WHat has been your experience in finding secure pension plans for non-wealthy expats?

  36. Subbiah Shanmugam says:

    Dear all,

    I met with RBI (Reserve Bank of India, which is India’s Central Bank) Ombudsman, Chennai, during the 2nd week of this month regarding the 2 InvestPlus Zurich Policies, which Citibank sold and conveniently got out during 2008, making all the Investors of Kuwait and Bahrain to lose money and service. It seems that there are many similar cases as per the Ombudsman. I am taking up the matter at the earliest with the Citibank for compensation and will involve the RBI for resolution, let us see.

    Thks & regds,

    Subbiah Shanmugam

  37. Naive says:

    Hi Andrew, I got sold Zurich International Futura Life insurance plan and have been paying 4000$ per annum since 2009. I have no idea what will it really give back to me even after lot of discussions with agents and email exchanges with the company customer service. I am not even clear when these premiums will end. There are so many unclear things about it and I can’t believe I was so stupid back then. Now, what I need to know is if I should continue it or just stop it. Is there anyway you can help me out ?

    • toony says:

      You acknowledge that you made a big mistake (falling for the expat investment scam). Do you think it is a good idea to continue putting money into it???
      1. STOP all payments ASAP!
      2. Get a full surrender to recoup as much money as possible
      3. Get Andrew’s book which gives easy step-by-step guide how to properly invest.
      4. NEVER invest in anything you don’t understand
      Don’t become another insurance salesman’s (masquerading as an IFA) wet dream!

      • Paul says:

        If you have life and critical illness benefits that you need it may be worth maintaining but ask them what you can reduce premium to maintain cover ! You should then save the difference in an open ended OEIC or Investment platform in funds or etfs. If you don’t need the life and critical illness you can reduce the benefits so that less of your premium is paying for cover. The agent makes his money over first 18 months so you are well over that term. Always a difficult decision to accept you have lost money !

  38. SSani says:

    Hi all, I am one of the large number of expat customers of ZI. I just finished my vista policy with a loss of 28% on the premium I paid per ZI. When ZI transferred the money apparently they made an error and transferred $10K extra which then means my loss is reduced to $4K. They want this $10K transferred back to them. They have indicated that they will send this case to their legal department. I would like your advice or similar experiences on how this has been dealt with previously. Thanks, SS

    • toony says:

      Hi SSani,
      You are the first I have heard experiencing this. Although I object and despite these insurance companies exploiting local laws to take advantage of expats, I would never advocate or condone people doing anything considered illegal in any shape or form.

  39. Peter says:

    Just to share my experience with all on the forum … I opened a Zurich IWA through Citibank Bahrain in 2007. I started with a lump sum of US$ 150,000. 9+ years later, as of Jan 2017, it was valued only $128,000 … so I rebalanced and went with aggressive mirror funds in Asia, Mining, E. Europe etc. By 31 Dec 2017, I was up $50,000 to $178,000. This portfolio peaked at $194,000 a month later and as of last week -10 Feb 2018 – I opted to exit as I was fed up of the fees being extracted each month – at a net valuation of $183,000. Funds have been transferred back into my Citibank account by Zurich. Note that Citibank/Zurich are working together once again, but it’s certainly not been a positive experience over the past 10 years. Happy to exit even with the little gain secured (a measly 2% annualized)!

  40. jocelyn chambers says:

    I want to surrender my Whole of Life policy with ZI. I live in Dubai. I believe I was mis-sold this policy and the fact that after monthly payments of $399 over the last 4 years 7 months totalling $22,344, my surrender value is only $3,381.47. This is just ludicrous! Should I pay another 5 months, ie. almost $2,000 and hope for a better payout after reaching 5 years, or just cash out now and count my losses? It peeves me. In UK they are paying out mis-sold PPI on credit cards etc and I got monies back from my bank for having been mis-sold PPI on my credit card. Maybe something should happen like this with these insurance companies. If I’d put that money away each month in the bank I’d have a nice lump sum right now even with no interest! A bit of advice would help right now. Thanks.

  41. Subbiah Shanmugam says:

    Dear Ms. Chambers, Greetings. I do not know if you invested directly or through any bank. Please contact any good broker (may be NEXUS or any other) for some advise to salvage your investment. Also, make a complaint to the relevant local authority in Dubai and the Isle of Man and claim for damages.

    • jocelyn chambers says:

      Thanks for your response. I was sold via a Financial Advisor but to be honest, I don’t think he knew exactly what he was selling. He has since left the company and we don’t have anyone to talk to direct. I will try your recommendations and see what happens. In the meantime, do you know off hand if it’s worth continuing to the 5 year mark which is in October, or do I surrender and make complaint after?

  42. Raju Sundaram says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I am an Indian working in Dubai. I brought the Zurich – Futura whole of life policy 1year back with monthly premium of $390 to be paid for 7years(vanishing premium) with an illustration showing 8% growth rate on the investment(EXCLUDING fund management charges). The first 2years premiums are 100% their charges(Nil allocation period), 3-10yrs is 7% , 10yrs more is 2% charges and also additional charges like fund management charges, admin charges, mirror fund charge, credit card charge etc will be charged from day 1 & will be deducted after the Nil allocation period. Total of minimum 41% of my investment will be deducted as charges within 7years.
    After reading your blog, I stopped my payment now. I asked Zurich to send me an illustration with 2% & 4% returns. i was shocked to see that my premiums will be doubled. then i realized the fact that the premiums are derived from the returns mentioned in the contract. The insurance agent(Future Insurance Broker) set 8% growth so that the premiums can be reduced. They invested 100% in US dollar Blue Chip fund. The fund shows a cumulative return of 60-80% in 10years which is 8-11% annualized returns. But this return will be for a LUMPSUM investment done 10years back. the returns for a systematic investment (SIP) will be very LOW right? i couldn’t find the XIRR returns for the funds provided by Zurich. Some Indian mutual funds research websites shows Annualised & XIRR returns seperately to show the SIP returns of the same.
    Also they have mentioned that the policy will lapse or benefits/ term will be reduced if the fund doesn’t grow as intended. So if you fund grows only 1-4% in first years, Zurich will increase your premium or change the benefits. Zurich wont manage our funds. Its our job to review its growth.
    The term plan of Zurich for 35years has a monthly premium of $98 only for the same benefits.
    Even though the agents say Futura is an investment plan, its purely a unit linked insurance plan. if your fund doesn’t perform well, your insurance benefit will be ceased. I met 2 more advisors regarding the same Futura plan, but both couldn’t prove me that the XIRR returns will be same or more than Annualised returns for the mutual funds.
    So dont buy Futura from these insurance agents who misguides you comparing with indian insurance products. better go for term plan.
    So now i started studying about ETF’s or index funds.

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