An expat’s checklist for choosing a financial adviser in the UAE

This content is for information purposes only and should not be taken as financial advice. Every effort has been made to ensure that this guide is accurate and up to date. Tax laws and rules, and how they are applied, may change and may depend on your individual circumstances.


Choosing a financial adviser can be a challenge for expats living in the UAE. Not only do you need to find an expert who understands the local customs, laws and regulations pertaining to your wealth and finances; you also need someone who understands how these relate to those in your home country. In addition, it can be difficult to ascertain which financial advisers are genuine, experienced and qualified enough to be trusted with your hard-earned wealth.

Below, we will share some important qualities, experience and certifications which we recommend you look for when choosing a financial adviser as a UAE-based expat. We hope you find this helpful, and invite you to get in touch if you would like more help selecting a good financial adviser.


1. Check their licensing

In the UAE it is quite common to find many companies calling themselves financial advisers, without possessing any recognised qualifications or licensing. As an expat with wealth which could be exploited, it’s important to keep a wary eye and ensure you only deal with legitimate and authorised companies.

Knowing which license to look for can also be confusing as the UAE has more than 6 regulators in the financial services space. The two primary regulatory bodies for ‘onshore’ companies you should take note of are the Insurance Authority and Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA). Both regulators have different remits though their oversight overlaps, which is why it was expected that they would merge in 2020 – below is a brief outline of their responsibilities:

Insurance Authority – responsible for monitoring and regulating all insurance-related companies from Insurance Companies (such as Zurich) to Insurance Brokers, which is the license many financial advisories use.

SCA – responsible for monitoring and regulated local markets, including the advisory and issuing of securities (i.e. stocks, bonds etc.) and commodities. Financial advisories may also be regulated by SCA for ‘Financial Analysis and Consulting’.

Lastly, some financial advisers in the UAE are licensed in ‘offshore’ jurisdictions such as Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) by the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) by the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA).

When deciding which financial adviser to use, it matters not so much where they are licensed but that they actually are licensed! Visit the regulator websites to check if your adviser’s company is listed and if it’s not, look for one that is or search our register.


2. Check their qualifications

Any reputable financial adviser will be immensely proud of the certifications and qualifications they have earned in the industry, to demonstrate their competence. The question, of course, is which qualifications are legitimate and actually signify that a financial adviser can do the job?

Unfortunately for expats in the UAE, there is no worldwide financial adviser qualification to appeal to. Rather, different countries offer various certifications which display varying degrees of authority amongst financial advisers.

For British expats, it will naturally be a good sign to find a financial adviser in the UAE which possesses a range of UK-based qualifications (which are generally held in wide regard across the globe). The most appropriate qualifications for British expats to look out for are issued by the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII); the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investments (CISI); and the London Institute of Banking and Finance (LIBF).

Look out for post-nominal letters such as ‘DipFA’ and ‘DipPFS’ and avoid advisers using ‘(CII)’ or ‘(CISI)’ alone as this does not represent a qualification. If in doubt, you can check the adviser registers on the above websites.


3. Check their track record

When it comes to your hard-earned wealth and money as an expat, you want to be as confident as possible that a financial adviser can demonstrate good past results with people in a similar situation. This is where client testimonials become very important.

Any financial adviser wishing to earn your trust will make it easy for you to access this social proof on their website, social media and other brand materials. Advisers on Profezo, for instance, are open to being independently reviewed by their clients – from the good to the not so good.

Adviser reviews are a good measure but not bullet-proof as websites like Trustpilot can be manipulated by companies. Don’t be afraid to ask for their clients’ contact details to speak to them yourself and conduct your own due diligence.


4. Check the costs

All financial advisers ultimately need to earn their keep, as all businesses do. So how do financial advisers charge? In general, payment is claimed by financial advisers in the UAE by either charging a set fee, or by taking a commission from the products they sell to clients.

In the UAE it is still overwhelmingly prevalent for financial advisers to take payment via the latter, “commission-based” approach. It’s worth noting that in the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has prohibited financial advisers since 2013 from taking a commission on advice pertaining to pensions, investments and retirement products.

This is because the commission-based approach is widely regarded as not in the interests of clients. It tends to incentivise financial advisers to sell products which pay a nice commission to the adviser, but which do not necessarily offer clients the best deal to serve their needs.

If you want to find a financial adviser who has your best interests at heart, it is best to hire a “fee-based” adviser. These fees are transparent and will be fully explained to you by the financial adviser from the first meeting, with a set price outlined for the service(s) you need. The result is that they can offer you advice and products which actually help you, rather than in pursuit of a commission.


Ready to get started?

It is not easy to find the right financial adviser as an expat in the UAE. With some digging, however, it is certainly possible and absolutely worth the effort.

Hopefully, throughout this article we have also given you some confidence in our ability to help expats and others in the UAE find a great financial adviser. To start a conversation and get started with your own financial plan, please contact us to be paired up or feel free to search our directory.
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