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In what has recently been described as a landmark decision in Dubai, a financial advisor, Neil Grant, was reportedly convicted by the Dubai Criminal Courts of operating a company without being registered by the authorities. According to newspaper reports investors are now looking to recover losses “potentially running into millions of pounds”.
It is common, but not the rule, in large divorce settlements, that capital moves from a husband (who has a long history of managing wealth with his own advisors) to a wife who is relatively new to the investment game.
The capital received by the wife will often comprise an element of “capitalised” income and so it will be essential for her to manage and understand the wealth, now under her control, in terms of risks, return, guarding against inflation and movements in currency values over many decades.
The story of Neil Grant’s client is unlikely to bring confidence to some investors in the region worried about where they can turn and who they can trust. The reality is the UAE has confident, professional and internationally focused investment advice within and outside the DIFC.
I asked Zoë Cousens MSCI, founder of the Women’s Investment Network Middle East (“win-me.ae”) as well as of Jonathan Drysch of Killik & Co, which until recently was present in the DIFC and a major force in private client wealth management in London, to provide some reassurance and direction.
With more than 30 years’ experience in financial services dating back to my time as one of the first women to work in the London Stock Exchange in 1986, this is an unfortunately all too familiar story to me. The hectic lives that we lead often result in us making hasty decisions out of relief that someone is taking the matter out of our hands and finally ticking one of the boxes on our long ‘to do’ list. So when we receive a call from someone from a professional sounding firm who promises to look after our life savings by investing in an attractive opportunity, the temptation to hand over our hard earned cash in return for the promised reward can be compelling. However, I always urge people to consider whether they would buy any other product or service in this way. When buying a television or a computer for example, we would naturally shop around not only to secure the best deal but also to ensure that we are purchasing the product most suitable for our needs, and also to reassure ourselves that it is of a reliable quality.
The very good news is that here in Dubai, the relevant regulatory bodies have recognised the need to protect resident investors and are in the process of introducing new minimum requirements and stringent regulations in the financial advisory business. Indeed, as a Member of the UAE National Advisory Board of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment, I have seen an encouraging increase in the number and level of professional qualifications being taken in the GCC region which can only lead to an overall improvement in the quality of the advice being provided.”
Killik and Co advise clients as they come out of the stressful and emotional experience of divorce. Although finalising a settlement may feel like crossing the finishing line, there follows a new challenge – how to manage the settlement appropriately, ensuring it is sustainable for life beyond divorce. For this reason, it is crucial to work with a trusted and regulated financial adviser.
The story and experience of Neil Grant`s clients must focus minds on the degree of regulation and scrutiny that their financial advisor is subject to. I hope that the prosecution will serve as both a warning to the unscrupulous and a lesson to the vulnerable. Our experience in advising clients in a number of overseas jurisdictions is that many of the financial structures that are sold to the unwary investor are not permitted in countries with a strong code of financial regulation such as the UK and whilst there is real regulation in UAE to protect investors, this case demonstrates that some advisors slip through the regulatory net – to the catastrophic detriment of their clients. We firmly believe that appointing an appropriate financial adviser to protect and grow a divorce settlement is of equal importance as the appointing of the legal firm whom secured the settlement in the first place.”
If you would like to read more about English law with a UAE perspective, you may be interested in reading our previous blogs and information about our services.
Michael Rowlands travels frequently to the UAE and will be there a number of times over the coming months to support clients and meet with experts and professional advisors.
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