Unregulated UK firm targets Asian investors
A firm unlicensed by UK regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to offer investment advice is managing hundreds of thousands of dollars on behalf of Asian investors, some 17 people who have made such investments have said.
Financial.org, which calls itself an education business and sponsors a Formula One team, has taken sums of money ranging from £2,217 (US$3,000) and £295,000 (US$400,000) from investors across Asia to invest on their behalf, the 17 people told the Reuters newswire service.
The individuals come from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and the UAE.
While the FCA declined to comment, saying it did not do so with regard to individual firms, Financial.org is not on its financial services register of firms authorised to offer investment advice.
Financial.org lists its UK office at an address in Canary Wharf in the Docklands financial services district.
When International Investment called the listed number, the phone was answered by one Bianca Popescu, who said that she was part of the “Global Finance Organisation”, for whom she was an “executive consultant” and “had nothing to do with Financial.org”.
When pressed, she conceded that she worked at an office that had the same address and phone number as Financial.org but repeated that she could not make any comment about Financial.org, saying only that all queries should be submitted online via the Financial.org website.
Neither Financial.org nor “Global Finance Organisation” are listed on the database of UK companies at the government database, Companies House.
On the Financial.org website, one Arnaud Georges describes himself as “President” of the company, saying: “Mr. Arnaud Georges started Financial.org global concept in 2016.”
Mr Georges modestly describes himself as a “visionary” and says, ironically given his apparent failure to comply with UK financial regulation, that he is “an advocate of financial literacy for everyone, regardless of race, religion and nationality”.
He concludes by saying of himself “Mr. Georges has over 16 years of experience in corporate management, finance and banking. He brings his experience and global networking to ensure Financial.org will grow in the correct path and direction to fulfill its ultimate potential”.
There are three other senior executives listed, two under “Vice President of Operations” – Richard Bennett (“Member services”) and Timothy Richards (“Corporate affairs”).
One Henry Yu is listed as “Marketing director for Asia Pacific region”.
Most of the 17 people who spoke to Reuters said that their money had been invested in US blue-chip stocks, and that they had made a profit.
“I have doubled my investments,” Azmi Tumpang, a former construction worker from Malaysia, told a Reuters journalist outside a gala dinner organised by Financial.org on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in late November.
A hard act to follow – or, indeed, trace
Despite the fact that no details can be found on Companies House under the two company names listed above, Reuters reported that Companies House said it was preparing to strike off the firm on Jan. 23 because it had never filed accounts.
If a company is struck off, it cannot continue to trade legally and its assets pass to the state.
This would suggest that Financial.org was a trading name, registered by another company.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) placed Financial.org on an investor alert list of “unregulated persons who, based on information received by MAS, may have been wrongly perceived as being licensed or authorized by MAS” last March, as recorded on the MAS website.
MAS said that investors should “exercise caution” when dealing with companies on the list.
And Malaysia’s Securities Commission MSC) also placed Financial.org on a list of “unauthorised websites/investment products/companies/individuals” last year, according to its website.
The MAS and Malaysian commission both declined to comment on Financial.org and why they had placed it on alert lists.