Theresa May has only just delivered her ‘Dear John’ letter to Europe, so we have a long way to go before Brexit is a done deal. But, by the time we get to the end of the process, I am sure we’ll all be fed up with the discussions and the wrangling. And who knows? In this uncertain world, we could well end up back in the EU again in a few years time.
In the meantime, we all have to prepare for the changes ahead even if we don’t know exactly what things will look like. Starting with passports!
In terms of finance and investment, the EU has allowed what is known as ‘passporting’, where companies based anywhere in the EU can sell investment products across borders.
What this means in practice for advice firms like ours, is that we can source the most appropriate investment from any EU state.
Take for example companies such as US firm Vanguard that establish their fund operations in Luxemburg, or BlackRock, that use Dublin. These businesses are able to offer their investment funds at a lower cost overall through selling the same fund throughout all 28 EU states.
However, from 2019, in the absence of EU single market access and passporting rights, funds based in financial centres like Dublin and Luxemburg may not be available for UK-based investors.
So for us and on behalf of our clients, the forward planning has already started, now that the Article 50 notification has been activated.
Our average client portfolio at Richmond Wealth currently consists of around 22 individual funds. Of these, usually between one fifth and one quarter will be domiciled in other EU countries. These are typically specialised lower cost funds that allow clients to access investment styles that are not readily available otherwise.
At this stage, investment managers like us cannot assume that someone resident in Northern Ireland as of March 30th 2019 can hold a particular fund. We are already busy working with our research team to identify alternate holdings that will achieve the same objectives.
In our experience, it’s much better to plan ahead and not wait to the last minute and be forced to make changes when everyone is rushing for the exit on a specific investment fund.
My advice? Keep calm and be prepared. Review your investment portfolio this year and start to realign the holdings to ensure you are properly positioned for the upcoming UK exit from the EU.
Our clients have already benefited from holding significant amounts in non-sterling assets in June last year, and I believe this type of forward planning always leads to better outcomes.