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Expat Investor : September October 2009
Why expatriates' lifestyles are worth the scrutiny Paul Say, Head of Marketing and Communications for HSBC Bank International, has spent the last couple of years leading HSBC Bank International's extensive research into expatriate life-styles. He tells Hannah Beecham what these surveys reveal about the way you lead your lives and manage your money. HB: What motivated HSBC Bank Inter national to embark on this research into British expatriate life-styles? PS: Trying to find any survey or information about expats is really tough and what is out there is relatively small in terms of sample size and pretty narrow in terms of explaining products and services. So, we decided to set up Expat Explorer. We wanted it to provide an emotional insight into expat life, rather than merely supplying the INTERVIEW expatinvestor.com 16 EXPAT INVESTOR September/October 2009 rational detail, exploring the things that are important to expats rather than what's important to HSBC. So the first survey was primarily to establish an understanding about needs. In the first instance, it identifies top expat locations around the world. It goes on to explore what it's like to bring up a child in these places, (as this is so important for expatriate life to survive -- the families must be happy) and we learned how expats keep in touch with family and friends back home, how they socialise, what they would call culture shock and what coping strategies they have. We can claim this is the world's largest expat survey with over 3,000 responses. HB: What trends in the global economy are currently affecting British expatriates' wealth ambition? PS: The changes in the current climate mean the personal circumstances for some expats have changed, some may have lost their jobs, some have had to endure pay cuts, some may have moved locations and maybe even repatriated back home. When significant change happens in your life along these lines, it's important to review your circumstances and for expats, in particular, it is important to do that review with an expert, be it a bank manager, tax accountant, or financial adviser. To give an example, when I left Hong Kong I had an interview with HSBC's tax accountants, Deloittes, as I was coming home to the UK and repatriation is a complicated business. There are things experts can do to help you manage and get your affairs in order. An expert in the finance industry will be able to help you navigate the financial intricacies of your next move. HB: How easy is it for the expat community to access one of your advisers? PS: We have rep offices in Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore. In South Africa, we have two offices, one in Johannesburg and the other in Cape Town. We also have a team in Jersey who can be contacted over the phone and, of course, there's our website, which is another good way to keep in touch. HB: So is the bulk of the discussion with your advisers via email, phone or face-to- face? PS: It really depends on the style of the customer. In some ways these preferences relate to individual attitudes towards investments. Some people are very confident with the subject and don't need the kind of reassurance the physical presence of an adviser offer and are happy to consult via email, others do need to see the person. To summarise, if your circumstance are changing it is important to seek advice. Secondly, in the current climate where there's such uncertainty about jobs and the future, you really do need to sit back and evaluate what you are doing. Maybe it's time to analyse your spending and have a period of reflection. I think this is especially timely for expats. Maybe the organisation you work for has been helping you out with accommodation, maybe the challenges you had when you left wherever you've originated from are no longer with you and you might have become blasé about spending. And my final point on this is to keep in touch with your bank or financial adviser. Advisers and bankers do want to hear from people and they do want to speak to you and it's a good thing to do this on a periodic basis. Doesn't matter where you come from, banks and advisers are more than happy to talk. HB: Tell me about HSBC Bank Inter national's commitment to ser vice? PS: One of the things about expats is they're spread to the four corners of the world. Service is an area in which HSBC is doing very well. We 're a big brand with a global reach and our Premier (Account) proposition, of which most expats are aspiring to or qualifying for, allows expats to get global recognition wherever they go. If you've got a Premier Account card you can present yourself at any of our branches. Our systems are joined up to recognise you wherever you are in the world so we can offer you a premium service worldwide. We've also got a fabulous online proposition. We 've launched new internet banking features such as Global View, so if you have bank accounts around the world you can join them all up and view them from one screen. Say you have a bank account in the US, the UK and Hong Kong, they can be brought altogether using Global View. This means a customer does not have to log in three times to get their finances together -- it can all be done on the same screen. We re you to move some of your HongKong$totheUSinUS$, you can use the Global Transfer Solution to do that immediately for free via internet banking. The Global Transfer Solution allows you to make transfers in real time through the internet, across international boundaries for free -- so you can move your money into different accounts across currencies and borders. With our international banking centres, as a Premier customer, say you were based in Hong Kong and were offered a new posting in the US, and you needed to move bank accounts. By contacting one of our international banking centres they will set up a new US dollar account, so it's all done and dusted for your arrival. As far as we are aware we are the only bank to offer this service.