Marc Ikels — Singapore

 Why Marc Ikels Could Be Singapore’s Best Financial Advisor

“I had a choice between the in-flight entertainment system, and the live entertainment,” says financial advisor Marc Ikels. “I chose the live entertainment.” It was 2004. He was flying from Singapore to run the New York City Marathon. His “live entertainment” became Marc’s future wife. He married the Singapore Airlines flight attendant in 2006.

On Singapore’s National Day, four years later, the couple’s twin boys were born.

That’s when Marc decided to quit his job with American Express to become a financial advisor. “The American Express job involved far too much travel,” he says.

A few years earlier, he had earned his MBA through INSEAD, a Wharton College exchange program. He specialized in Finance. And like a driven student, once he decided to become a financial advisor, he wanted to be one of the best.

To do so, he couldn’t put client money into investment linked assurance schemes. They’re also called Offshore Pensions. Such platforms are popular among Asia’s financial advisors because they pay massive commissions. They charge high fees to clients. And they charge whopping early exit penalties. So Marc couldn’t sell them. If he had done so, he couldn’t have slept at night.

Instead, he aimed to build portfolios of low cost index funds. Studies show they outperform actively managed products. They don’t pay commissions to advisors. What’s more, unlike offshore pensions, there are no penalties for redeeming them before a designated date.

Ikels contacted a firm called Dimensional Fund Advisors. It’s based in Texas. And it has the best client loyalty ratings in the world. They don’t pay commissions to advisors that use their products. And they’re a picky firm. To build portfolios of DFA index funds, financial advisors must undergo heavy scrutiny. Most have to fly to the United States for extra training.

“I’m the only financial advisor in Singapore qualified to sell DFA’s funds,” says Ikels. In fact, he might be the only one in Asia.

Marc Ikels isn’t the kind of guy who’s going to cold-call you at home, or at your office. Most of his business comes from referrals. “I’ve built a client base that includes many Singapore-based MBAs,” he says. And it makes sense. Knowing the difference between an advisor who builds a portfolio of DFA funds compared to an advisor selling high commissioned pensions with Friends Provident, Zurich International, Royal London 360 or Royal Skandia isn’t something most people know. And that’s a pity.

Those wanting a top quality investment portfolio, however, could call Marc Ikels if they fit his requirements. “It has to be a good fit,” he says. “I won’t invest people’s money if they want me picking individual stocks or chasing hot trends. That’s not how to make solid, long term gains.”

Instead, investors need to understand how low costs, diversification, and annual rebalancing provide the best odds of investment success.

Because Marc doesn’t earn commissions, he accepts clients with a minimum $500,000 (USD equivalent) to invest. “Otherwise,” he says, “the business model doesn’t make sense.”

He charges a flat $7000 a year for accounts valued between $500,000 and $999,000. For accounts above $1 million, he charges a percentage of the account’s assets. For example, a $2 million portfolio would cost 0.65 percent per year in fees. That’s $13,000. Accounts valued between $2 million and $5 million cost 0.55 percent per year. Accounts exceeding $10 million cost 0.38 percent annually.

Unlike with an offshore pension, these costs aren’t hidden. Most offshore pensions charge more than 3.5 percent per year, once advisory fees, fund fees and establishment fees are added up. By comparison, Marc’s fees are a bargain.

Marc Ikels is the only advisor based in Singapore who builds portfolios entirely with index funds. He won’t put an actively managed fund in a client’s account. Using index funds instead, puts the science behind investing.

 marc-ikels

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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 (2nd Ed. Wiley 2017) 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, Privacy Policy and the Comments Policy.

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1 Response

  1. Shane says:

    Nice to see capable, ethical advisers being promoted here. And nice to see that you have finally named and shamed RL360, Andrew.

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