Robert D. Hare wrote a fascinating book called Snakes In Suits.
He says roughly one percent of the male population is a psychopath. That doesn’t mean they hide people in their freezers. Some might. Most of them, however, don’t have Jack The Ripper urges. They just lack empathy. They don’t feel what others feel.
According to Dr. Hare, far fewer women fit that mold. So…for those guys who have said, “My old girlfriend is a psycho,” I have news for you. The odds aren’t likely. Women, however, who say, “My old boyfriend is a psycho,” might have been sleeping with a bona-fide wacko.
I’m writing this from Dubai. Plenty of expatriates live here. They work in shipping, architecture, interior design, medicine, oil and gas, education, law, and a slew of other professions. Men and women work side by side. But there’s one industry that attracts few women. The Middle East’s financial sales army is stuffed with British men.
In most highly regulated, developed market countries, plenty of women are financial advisors. I would guess, for example, that women make up about 40 percent of financial advisors in Canada.
But in the Middle East, financial salespeople can earn massive upfront commissions–at the expense of the unfortunate souls that buy their products. Friends Provident, Zurich International, RL 360, Aviva and Generali Worldwide have created many contractual savings schemes. These are large firms. They offer a variety of services and products. But snakes in suits love their highest commission-paying investment schemes.
It’s illegal to earn such commissions on these products in the UK or Australia. That’s why sales snakes slither through the Middle East. They work for a variety of brokerages, getting paid by insurance companies after they have struck.
Women rarely sell such products. They’re like four leaf clovers at these brokerage firms. Those women who do work for such firms often quit in disgust. One woman I spoke to in Abu Dhabi said it was the most sexist environment she had ever worked in. I met her at Cranleigh Prep School. She had quit her brokerage job after just two weeks.
“I dropped my pen while working in a room full of male colleagues,” she said. “When I bent down to pick it up, the guy next to me said, ‘While you’re down there sweetheart…’” She says everybody laughed. Nobody stood up for her. She left the next day.
The New York Post reported a similar story about the same brokerage.
Bloomberg, one of the world’s most respected financial news sources, detailed a story about the same firm. It’s a high-pressure sales environment where, according to Bloomberg, the brokerage often breaks rules to earn its commissions.
This firm sells products with layers upon layers of hidden fees. Such fees help to pay huge commissions. But I have yet to see an investment portfolio from such a firm that has beaten inflation over a period of ten years or longer. If you have one (that has beaten inflation while you’ve invested with this firm) I would like to see it. Women rarely remain at such firms, feeling like they have to sell their souls if they really want to stay.
Plenty of people in the UAE are catching on. They’re growing sick of self-serving, commission based firms. They’re tired of salesmen who don’t tell them the truth. They want to know what Warren Buffett would say, if asked about investing. What would a Nobel Prize winner in economics say? At my Middle East talks, I explain it in a nutshell.
The TELLAL Institute flew me to Dubai last week for the GEMS Awareness Day. It was exciting to see 1,900 new GEMS teachers piling into a single massive room to hear, among other people, GEMS founder Sunny Varkey and GEMS Chief Education Officer, Sir Christopher Stone. Both men were impressive.
I spoke to teachers about saving for their retirement. Thank you Deborah Hennigan, Sarah Hole, Lee Hole and Lisa Ramshaw for your warmth, hospitality, and for making the session possible.
The following morning, Dubai Eye Business Breakfast hosts Brandy Scott, Richard Dean and Malcolm Taylor interviewed me. You can access the interview here. In January, I might be coming back for a two-hour special so listeners can ask more questions related to investing and the sharks that swim in these waters.
Later that same day, I spoke to a large public group at Dubai College. Sebastien Aguilar (Bogleheads UAE) organized the session. Dubai College’s Robert Ashby helped to secure the venue.
United World College; Free Public Talk (Bogleheads UAE)
Photographer: Dorota Lewna
The following day, I spoke to the employees at Seadrill, an offshore deep water drilling company. I would like to thank Seadrill’s Arran Mackaill for making that happen.
Soon after that talk, I jumped into a taxi and headed to Abu Dhabi. It was just over a one-hour drive from Seadrill’s office.
In Abu Dhabi, I met Blair Hoover and Kevin Smith. They organized a talk at Raha International School. The teachers were great, and I feel confident that they’ll spread the message, with respect to low-cost investment products, while ensuring that the new teachers at Raha International School don’t get exploited by financial sharks in suits.
Such commission-hungry carnivores sell horrible investment products. And when they sell them to Americans, it compounds the problem. In fact, if you’re an American, and you have been sold a Friends Provident, Zurich International, RL 360, Aviva or Generali long term investment scheme, you might be able to reclaim your money.
Such providers don’t generally allow Americans to buy their offshore contractual savings schemes. The IRS doesn’t want Americans to own them. For that reason, they involve a very complicated, expensive tax structure. It’s the American government’s way of dissuading U.S. citizens from buying such products. Americans aren’t told that they have to file these plans differently. But when they don’t, they risk tax evasion. This is why few offshore brokerages will enroll an American into a contractual savings scheme.
But a snake in a suit wouldn’t care about that.
Teachers in Abu Dhabi have been heavily hit by such people who appear to lack ethics.
The day after speaking at Raha International School, I spoke at a Dubai Business Breakfast Group. They meet once a month. I was honored by their warm, enthusiastic reception. I was thrilled to have several members say, “Please come to speak to our employees.”
Salesmen will try to keep selling the most expensive, horrific financial products that they can. But education will beat exploitation.
My upcoming book, Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas, explains what kinds of firms to avoid, and how to best invest for a productive future. It’s the second edition of my book, The Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing.
Images © Sébastien Aguilar