The Big Interview: Nigel Green, chief executive and founder of deVere
Nigel Green, chief executive and founder of international financial firm deVere, is lauded by some and criticised by others for his work – thus a genuine contender for the ‘Marmite man’ tag*. Gary Robinson caught up with Green as the company he founded and clearly loves, has been going through what it calls a “comprehensive restructuring period”. And despite what many might class as a ‘perfect storm’ of industry convergence, wave after wave of regulatory changes and scrutiny and criticisms from rivals and former colleagues, he found that this is one individual that is still very much up for the fight.
GR So, what does undergoing a “comprehensive restructuring period” entail?
NG “It entails looking in-depth at every part of the business. We have lots of different brands, operate in lots of different jurisdictions – which all evolve at different paces and have different regulatory environments. And offer a wide range of different products and services.
“To keep ahead of the curve, we need to review each and every part of the business model. This will then give us a roadmap for the future by telling us where and what we need to invest more in and where we should reduce and/or modify our current model.
“It is likely that some offices will close, and others will be opened, as a result of the Strategic Review, which we envisage will be completed by the end of the second quarter.”
Why is the battle against FATCA so important? First for the market/investors and secondly to deVere? And does this mean that the US is now deVere’s most important region, ahead of the UAE?
“I’ve been speaking out and campaigning against FATCA since it was first mooted by the Obama-administration back in 2010. More recently, I have set up the official Campaign to Repeal FATCA in Washington DC with some veteran lobbyists, including Jim Jatras, the former US diplomat.
“My primary motivation for my ongoing campaigning is that FATCA is a huge and unnecessary burden for the eight million or so American citizens who live outside the US. Expats are, of course, our biggest market and I felt compelled to take on the fight on their behalf.
“But in addition to turning ordinary hardworking American individuals overseas and US firms that operate globally into financial pariahs, as I have said before, FATCA is a masterclass in the law of unintended consequences.
“It does not and cannot achieve its purported aim of tackling tax evasion – in fact the legislation does not include a single provision targeting actual tax evasion. FATCA is a Washington diktat imposed on sovereign states around the world.
“There are important questions to be asked about the utterly imperialistic nature of FATCA. Countries and Foreign Financial institutions (FFIs) have been coerced into complying with FATCA’s sovereignty-violating, expensive, burdensome, privacy-infringing regulations by the US – or face heavy penalties. In effect, these countries and FFIs are now working as de facto agents of America’s tax authority.
“The Gulf remains the region in which we write most business.”
As a global company, how do you stay abreast of the different regulatory approaches in different jurisdictions?
“We do this through three key ways. First, we have a large and, I believe, industry-leading technical team of highly skilled and qualified professionals whose job is to understand all the existing and incoming regulations and how they apply in each and every jurisdiction in which we operate.
“Second, we have a centralised compliance department and compliance teams in each jurisdiction. And third, we provide continuous professional development and training to all our advisers on the regulatory landscape in which they work.”
The recent QROPS legislation took the industry by surprise. QROPS currently represent about 20% of our business and, therefore, with this change coming in with immediate effect, it was sensible to bring forward our planned Strategic Review.
How did it feel for the FCA to single out deVere with its recent ‘concerns’? And how damaging is it to have to stop providing transfer value reports in response to FCA concerns? And do you see more companies set to be restricted/investigated by the UK regulator?
“DeVere wasn’t singled out because we ourselves wrote to the FCA on this matter in the first instance to clarify the new requirements – the fact we approached the regulator first is something much of the less informed trade media failed to put out when we went public with it.
“But we might have started a wider review as we have now seen with other firms going through the same process.
“It is not damaging – indeed, it would be damaging to our clients and our business not to have voluntarily ceased providing reports in the short term whilst we work with the FCA to strengthen procedures in line with the changes they established.
“This step underscores our commitment to working with the regulator in each and every area of our business.”