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Philippe Amarante, Director and Head of Henley & Partners Middle East, speaks to GN Focus about the need for higher standards and transparency in the investment migration industry.

You are seeing a surge in interest in investment migration. How do you ensure transparency and trust?

As private client advisors it is imperative our clients understand that we act in their best interests. That means explaining to them the risks as well as the benefits and being honest with them, even if it is telling them that they do not need our service or now is not the right time. Warren Buffet once said: Honesty is a very expensive gift. Don’t expect it from cheap people. Our clients understand that and the higher purpose behind our service. The foundation of our success has been and will always be unbiased advocacy.

Clients want to know that the firm they have chosen has substance, globally accepted procedures and policies and will remain a beacon.

- Philippe Amarante, Director and Head of Henley & Partners Middle East

Clients want to know that the firm they have chosen has substance, globally accepted procedures and policies and will remain a beacon. They want the firm to guide them keeping their long-term objectives in mind than short-term goals.

Unfortunately, there are some firms in our industry that don’t hold themselves to the higher standards that we do. Instead of providing transparent and accurate information, they are looking to make a quick buck, which ends in disappointment for clients.

At Henley & Partners, we have procedures to safeguard our clients. Our due diligence measures are mainly to protect our clients, so are our cybersecurity initiatives and compliance with General Data Protection Regulation. I know this sounds boring but it’s safe and it works. Look at our partnerships with leading financial institutions and law firms across the globe — we all share the same mindset of client servicing.

How do you help clients in their choice of destination?

It’s simple and starts with the why. We sit down with the client to understand their motivation. We look at their requirements, pain points, objectives, timelines and of course budgets to develop a menu of opportunities. With that as a basis, we have numerous discussions with the client and their family to decide on the right destination. We have incredible stories of clients who have been discussing various options with us for years. Their lives are dynamic; they change. We onboarded a client last week who started discussions with us six years ago!

How have your clients’ needs changed during the pandemic?

We have the most inspiring clients. Whether they are entrepreneurs or members of larger corporations, they all share the attitude of looking at long-term goals rather than short and quick solutions. For example, take the recently launched Montenegro programme. Clients understand that the facts point towards Montenegro joining the EU — things can perhaps get delayed; the pandemic is a great eye opener that way. Yet our clients share the belief that it’s a question of when not if. So even in a fragile global economic situation, I think our clients have realised that waiting longer is not getting them closer to their objectives.

Henley is a reputable brand in the business. How have you ensured innovation and improved your value proposition?

Oh yes, we are the old lady in the room. Jokes aside, it goes back to what I said earlier. Trust is earned. You have to work for it. And even if our brand appears a bit conservative, it’s these values of safety, protection and playing by the book, which is attractive to our clients.

Tell us a little about your government advisory practice.

The fact that our firm has been trusted by many governments as partner is appealing to our clients and their advisors. A large portion of our clients come to us because we have these amazing partnerships with intermediaries around the world who trust us the same way that governments trust us – as independent, experienced and highly specialised citizenship and residence advisory experts.

What should clients keep in mind while deciding on a citizenship planning firm?

Firstly, always look at the facts and the law. Don’t follow the Pied Piper.

Secondly — and I speak for myself — the pandemic has made people understand the fragility of single nationality and residency. I am a German citizen but I got stuck in Dubai during lockdown like many of our clients. So the question is what can you do now to make sure the next lockdown doesn’t impact your life, family, wealth and health as much as this one did. Only in times of crisis you realise what you’re missing.

Another fascinating development is how working from home has become working from anywhere. We will see more clients using investment migration to enhance their lifestyle, safety, health, education or to simply reside in a country of their choice. So the advice is more on planning where you want to be and not to plan with where you are now.

And talking about planning —Benjamin Franklin said it beautifully: The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten. Clients need to understand that residence and citizenship by investment are not commodities that are mass-produced. Laws can change, so can governments. Choose a firm with honesty, integrity, accountability and experience to help you navigate the challenging times, whether it is Henley & Partners or another firm. Unfortunately, the industry has only a few such firms.