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Henley & Partners Highlights Overseas Residence & Citizenship Options for Vietnam’s HNWIs

Dominic Volek

Henley & Partners

Dominic Volek, Managing Partner and Head of Southeast Asia at investment migration consultancy Henley & Partners, gave a head to head interview at the Hubbis Vietnam Wealth Management Forum to highlight the appeals of global investment migration, explaining why and how increasing numbers of Asia’s wealthy are taking up alternative citizenship and residence options around the globe, and briefly mentioning some of the key programmes that his firm proposes.

Henley & Partners’ activities span the private client practice, which focuses on the needs of high net worth (HNW) and ultra-HNW clients who seek secondary residence or citizenship through investment, as well as the government advisory practice, where Henley works with countries to design, implement and promote their individual investment migration programmes.

“Over 20 years ago our Chairman pioneered this concept of investment migration,” Volek told delegates. “Residence and citizenship planning at the time Henley was formed was hardly known of, but today it has become an integral part of wealth management and of the planning put in place by forward-thinking families.”

“We specialise in residence and citizenship planning,” he explained. “We advise HNWIs and ultra-HNWIs on identifying and obtaining alternative citizenship, we help them to get permanent residence in other countries. The other element of our business is government advisory practice, where we strategically advise governments on the design, set-up and implementation of their investment migration programmes. To date, we have helped governments raise more than USD8 billion in foreign direct investment. We are the pioneers and industry leaders in both the private client and government advisory sides of the business.”

The global trend towards offshore residence and citizenship is even more intense in Asia due to the phenomenal rise in the number of HNWIs and UHNWIs in the wider Asia Pacific region, which last year set a new record of 6.2 million HNWIs worth USD21.6 trillion, according to Capgemini’s World Wealth Report 2018. And the trend is set to continue.

Seek professional advice

Volek explained Asia’s HNWIs and the ultra-rich should seriously consider these options and as they will need the best professional advice, should consider Henley, as the reputed leader in this advisory business.

He noted that today Henley has a worldwide staff of over 300 across 32 offices, and with more than 60 of those in Asia. And added that the largest number of the Asian staff are based in the Singapore regional HQ, with other regional offices in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Manila and more recently Melbourne, Australia, which the firm opened in late 2018.

The choice is yours…

“Here in Vietnam, we help with many citizenship-by-investment (CBI) and residence-by-investment (RBI) applications. CBI is only offered by a handful of countries, roughly 10, and that is actually the majority of our business, but we also help Vietnamese people with residence options overseas."

RBI is the less complex option, whereas CBI is, understandably, the more demanding and expensive option. CBI programmes confer on the successful individual, and their families, the same rights as ordinary citizens of those countries; the solution is permanent and includes voting rights and passports with little to no physical presence required. The great advantage of CBI is that it bypasses the traditional route of an HNWI and the entire family relocating to another country in order to earn citizenship.

In fact, Volek noted that CBI is a relatively new concept, explaining that there are only about 10 countries currently with specific legislation in place that allows an individual - as long as they pass the due diligence and anti-money laundering checks – to invest and become a citizen of that country.

Volek noted that Henley’s role is to offer professional investment migration expertise, but the firm does not directly involve itself in any form of tax or legal advisory.

Each client has their reasons

There are various reasons why private clients take up one or more investment migration options. There might be political or economic problems in their home country, or they simply wish to have a ‘Plan B’ to safeguard against such problems emerging later on.

The motivation might also be more lifestyle-driven, perhaps due to education plans for their children or grandchildren, or even maybe for future retirement plans. And as investment migration can also cater to the whole family and even includes parents and more distant family members, the solutions on offer are rather comprehensive.

Another core motivation for many people in Asia is the relative weakness of their passports from a travel freedom perspective. Singapore, Japan, Korea, as well as Australia and New Zealand are very high up the ranks of the annual global Henley Passport Index, which measures how many countries a passport holder can visit without a prior visa. While countries such as Singapore and Malaysia, have a fantastic passport from a travel perspective, other passports in the region, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, are far more limited in terms of their visa-free travel potential. In fact, the Vietnam passport is ranked number 90 in the world and offers visa-free travel to just 51 countries.

Volek also noted the typical private client is cash-rich but time-poor. He said most clients do not actually move to the new country, even if they obtained alternative citizenship, and that generally their motives are driven by additional freedom and flexibility.

Choose wisely

Some of the key programmes Henley & Partners recommends for either RBI or CBI, include several countries in the Caribbean, EU countries such as Greece and Portugal (for residence) and Malta and Cyprus (for citizenship) as well as the latest, Montenegro, also in Europe but not currently in the EU.

“Why do we follow these Hubbis Forum’s all over this region?” he asked rhetorically. “Well, we do a lot of business in these countries, and we work very closely with a lot of intermediaries, private banks, investment managers, family offices, and others in the wealth management community. We can help your clients, we can add value to your existing relationships, and we also share the fees on these projects when we are introduced by advisers and intermediaries. So, we can work harmoniously together, as we only advise on residence and citizenship planning, we do not cover any of the areas you work on with your clients. So we can all work well for mutual benefit but ultimately to assist your clients.”

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