Stuart Ritchie — Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Stuart Ritchie, of AES International. Financial Practitioner For Expatriate Investors. No Minimum Account Size Requirement for DIY Platform, $75,000 USD for full service account minimums
For years, investors have been asking me, “Is there a financial advisory firm in the Middle East that will build index fund portfolios for clients.” The answer has been no. Until now, I’ve recommended that all Middle East residents run from the financial advisors that step into their paths. That includes (unfortunately) the advisors that are endorsed by the many international schools in the region. Well meaning administrators have invited sharks into seal pools.
But one firm in the Middle East is arriving with a lifeboat: AES International. Investors could pay as little as 0.35% per year to use a DIY platform. That costs more than a DIY platform with TD Direct International. But with AES, there’s always the option of paying one-time advice fees to ask needed questions.
Investors who want a portfolio completely managed by an AES International professional require a minimum of $75,000 USD (equivalent). The platform costs 1.25% per year for accounts below $1 million, and 1% for accounts above $1 million.
I interviewed AES International’s Stuart Ritchie to tell us about himself and the firm.
- Please tell us a little about yourself professionally, including your qualifications.
I am a Chartered Wealth Manager and a Chartered Financial Planner through the UK Chartered Institute of Securities and Investments and the Chartered Insurance Institute respectively.
These qualifications reassure my clients that I adhere to a strict code of conduct, am subject to ongoing assessment and that my knowledge is continuously updated to take into account the latest planning strategies as well as the many changes in legislation and taxation. This so that I am always best placed to advise them.
I am also a UK Pension Transfer Specialist and remain registered on the UK Financial Conduct Authority Register.
My entire career has been in Financial Services. I began at a Private Bank in Glasgow and Edinburgh, followed by a move into their Investment Management arm. I then moved to Aberdeen and worked in the Wealth Management arm of an actuarial firm, followed by a move to Scotland’s largest independent Chartered Accountancy firm.
- Please tell us something about you, as a person.
My very early years were spent living as an expat in Noordwijk in the Netherlands, and my parents have been expats for the vast majority of my adult life, living in Cairo, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Kuala Lumpur to name but a few.
I was working for an advisory firm when my father began receiving numerous calls from offshore salespeople offering ‘guaranteed’ returns at ‘almost no risk’. He was then approached by a firm in KL offering him an offshore bond. Having reviewed the paperwork for him I was able to advise my dad to steer clear due to the hidden costs and poor investment options, including multiple structured products that had been selected. These experiences stimulated my interest in the offshore marketplace and in helping international people.
I am now back living as an expat in Dubai with my wife, who works for a Private Bank based in the DIFC and we are expecting our first child in August.
I see my long-term future in Dubai. I’ve joined The Scottish Association and was recently voted onto the Board as Treasurer. I am also a member of the local Supporters Club of my home football team, which has over 200 members in the UAE.
- Could you give us an introduction to your firm?
I head the team of Financial Practitioners at AES International in Dubai who are committed to helping triage expatriates to get the right type of service for their needs.
I was attracted to AES because of our mission to ‘Positively Change’ the international financial services marketplace. This means helping clients understand, protect and grow their assets in a way that is almost entirely different from the rest of the financial industry.
Our team is fee-based, uses index funds, open architecture platforms and integrated planning solutions.
Being a large firm brings both advantages and disadvantages. We are well capitalised, have a huge number of licenses, a very experienced team, strong internal compliance and excellent economies of scale. However, we also have the legacy of being part of the problem which we are trying to solve (having many historic clients in mutual funds or insurance-based investments). This is because just like the wider world – our marketplace is continually evolving and changing and solutions delivered a decade ago are now outdated. I believe this gives us an unparalleled depth of knowledge and expertise in helping international investors get the best possible investment outcomes and financial planning services.
- What is the minimum account size requirement you have, in order for a person to become a client?
We are happy to speak with absolutely anyone and to lend a helping hand wherever possible.
However, we don’t currently provide specific solutions for clients with under £50,000 of investable assets.
We also offer execution only services and guided services to clients who are happy to ‘do it themselves’ and find that most people’s affairs are not so complicated as to require full advice, unless their asset base is quite substantial.
- Why do you only build portfolios of low cost index funds or ETFs for your clients?
Industry and academic studies indicate that the majority of active investment managers underperform their benchmarks over time by falling prey to pitfalls such as market-timing, short-term thinking and attempting to outsmart the market. Moreover, those managers who have favourably performed in the past are no more likely to perform favourably in the future. So at AES we don’t play the game of pretending to have inside knowledge of identifying the great performing fund managers of the future.
Using ETFs and other passively managed investments allows us to focus on the more important issue of asset allocation instead of share selection. As index investors we can achieve higher average net-of-fee returns by avoiding the most common failures of active management, including higher fees, higher turnover, and the inability to predict who will outperform.
ETFs make up the majority of our client’s portfolios. The precise investment exposure and cost of an investment are primary considerations. The investment structure, whether ETF or index fund, is secondary.
ETFs help to control risk through the opportunity to obtain diversified exposure to an asset class in a single trade, leading to increased ability to customise a portfolio’s asset allocation.
- Could you give us an idea of the kind of services you offer, as well as your charges? If they differ, based on circumstances, could you give us a few examples?
If clients are happy to use a ‘DIY approach’ then we can direct them to a suitable execution only platform and provide on-going guidance as appropriate for a 0.35% custody fee pa.
However, many clients value the more in depth services offered by our Financial Practitioners. This full financial planning service is founded on the belief that every individual has a unique set of circumstances and objectives. A financial plan shouldn’t be prescriptive – it should be tailored to reflect our clients’ specific evolving needs and goals.
Our financial advice is focused on helping our clients meet their financial objectives – whether that’s through their existing arrangements or advising on new ones.
- Build a financial plan to give our clients confidence for the future;
- Assess their financial needs and identify issues, gaps and opportunities;
- Analyse the amount of risk they are prepared and need to take to achieve their objectives;
- Help our clients to understand how their assets can meet their needs, now and in the future; and
- Create a plan so that their assets pass to those who matter, as efficiently as possible.
All initial consultations are without charge.
As part of this ‘triage’ process (many clients are best suited to DIY which costs 0.35% pa) we provide all clients with a written tariff of fees and charges.
These differentiate between investment advice (which may also include banking/platform charges) and financial planning services.
Advisory fees for investment management are 1.25% pa.
In regard to financial planning – we work with all direct clients on a fee basis. Our fees are dependent on the nature and complexity of the work being carried out. All of our fees are agreed with clients in writing in advance of any planning, advice and recommendations taking place.
We offer hourly rates or fixed fees.
Hourly rates are typically between £100 and £250 per hour, dependant on the work and initial fixed fees range from 3% on small amounts to 1.75% on larger accounts.
The fee for ongoing advice and rebalancing is 1.25% per annum.
In terms of the initial service that our clients would receive from AES and the Financial Practitioner team, this would include:
- Initial and subsequent meetings (can do via Skype);
- Data gathering, including liaison with existing providers as necessitated, and detailed analysis;
- Legislative, market and product research;
- Full planning report, cash flow analysis and recommendations;
- Arranging of the recommendations; and
- Verification and issue of the Policy Documentation Pack.
The ongoing servicing and regular reviews would include the following:
- An update and appraisal of our clients’ financial and personal situation, needs, circumstances and objectives;
- Rebalancing of investment portfolio as asset allocation changes over time;
- A review of their attitude toward investment risk and volatility linked specifically to the performance of their funds, to ensure continued appropriateness. This will help ensure that their risk tolerance continues to match asset allocation being used; and
- As assessment and review of investment performance and markets relative to their specific investment as well as a wider economic overview.
- Could you give us your contact details and your firm’s website?
- Name:Stuart Ritchie
- Company Name: AES International
- Email: Stuart.ritchie@
- Phone: +971 4450 2500
- Phone: +971 56 824 1598