Many financial salespeople view Dubai’s expats as a farm of cash cows. They want to milk the entire community.
The chief milkers (most of whom are British) love to sell investment-linked assurance schemes. These are horrendous products. They charge sky-high internal fees, so they’re bad for investors. But the people who sell them make a fortune in commissions.
Fortunately, we’re seeing a bit of progress. Some financial companies are saying, “We can offer something better. It started with AES International, offering full-service financial planning for high net worth clients. They offered portfolios of index funds (or ETFs) with lower costs and no exit fees. Sarwa lowered the entry point further. The roboadvisor firm builds low-cost portfolios for investors who don’t want to build portfolios on their own. Investors with as little as $500 can let Sarwa build and manage portfolios of ETFs.
Now NBF bank seems to have joined the group. They still sell actively managed funds. But earlier this year, they told me they’re offering a lower cost option that’s far less actively managed. They offer iShares all-in-one portfolios to the bank’s retail clients. These are all-in-one globally diversified portfolios of ETFs. In fact, they are the same ETF solutions offered by Internaxx’s (now Swissquote) Smart Portfolio solutions.
They’re also the same products that AES International used to offer lower net-worth clients with a minimum $10,000 USD to invest (AES no longer offers these products, now focusing its business on high net-worth clients exclusively, for which they build portfolios with individual ETFs and DFA index funds).
NBF bank’s all-in-one portfolios of ETFs cost 0.50 percent per year. That’s what iShares keeps.
NBF bank doesn’t charge an additional management fee. There’s a $1000 minimum investment, and the bank doesn’t charge an early exit fee. They earn their money by charging a 1 percent commission on each investment. In other words, if somebody invests $1000, it costs the retail client $10 in commissions. That’s what NBF keeps. If a client invests $10,000, the retail clients pay a commission of $100.
NBF didn’t invite me to speak about their products. Instead, they asked me to speak about the merits of low-cost investing and diversification. I spoke about DIY investing in portfolios of ETFs: about the elegance of simplicity and the emotional pitfalls that plague investors during a crash. My “investment mindset” talks are definitely among my favorites.
What’s even better, I think, is that the average retail investor in the UAE is becoming more financially literate. Many people have read my book, Millionaire Expat. Since Amazon entered the UAE market early in 2019, Millionaire Expat has been the region’s top selling book.
The National has also done a great job educating investors about the pitfalls associated with horrific financial products. And the Simply FI group, as well as Steve Cronin’s workshops (he’s doing his next one with the amazing Tuan Phan) have done a great job to spread the word about low-cost investing.
I hope businesses and international schools in the UAE continue to invite me to speak. When we spread the word about low-cost investing, we can collectively save expats tens of millions of dollars.
If you would like me to speak at your business or international school, please please fill in the form on my website: andrewhallam.com
With financial education….we can end financial exploitation.
Photos courtesy of Pele Hallam-Young