Communicating effectively is one of the universal challenges, and some would say, problems in communicating are the root cause of much tension and conflict at all levels of society and around the world.
Whether it is being understood, getting a message across, understanding someone else’s intent, or comprehending what they are even talking about, it can be difficult in everyday life, even in your own language.
As an expat, if you are living in a country where you do not speak the language (fluently, or at all) it can make communicating even more difficult. We have all experienced those times where we are reduced to monosyllables, hand gestures and facial expressions to convey a message. We can get by like this, on occasion, if we are asking for directions or making a small transaction. When it comes more impactful events, not communicating clearly can be fraught with risk.
When it comes to managing your money and receiving investment and financial advice, understanding the advice and the implications of that advice is essential.
There are two situations where expats in Europe can be exposed to communications risks when managing their investments:
One: when you are required by a local institution, to obtain advice and sign all documents in the local language. If you are not fluent in that language, this leaves you at risk of not knowing what you are signing up for.
What are the downside risks?
You could find that you have different terms to what you thought you had. This could result in higher charges, penalty fees, lack of access to your funds, different risk profile, different returns to your expectations and potentially different tax treatment amongst other risks.
Two: the second is less obvious. You may find a friendly person at an institution, that speaks English quite well, and with good intent, provides you explanations and advice in English for you. You are still potentially exposed to the same risks as above, however, as you may also find that, there are errors in their interpretations, understandings, or what is important for the specifics of your situation as an expat.
This exact example has resulted in a court finding recently with a bank being fined for mis-advising international clients, unofficially in English. The case was brought by individual investors arguing they had not had fees explained clearly. The judge found in favour of the investors. The result of this is that some institutions in Europe will now no longer provide support in English.
What should you do?
1. If you do have to operate in a language in which you are not fluent, it is worth having an accredited translator with you, so you understand the details in your language. Depending on the situation you should also have professional advice in your language to interpret the translated terms and conditions.
2. Always get professional advice in a language in which you are fluent. For most of our clients, and for many expats, that means in English. And…
3. Make sure the professional you are seeking advice from is licensed and accredited in the country you are in and in the language you are operating in.
4. If in doubt, get clarity before acting. It is ok to get a second opinion.
At Black Swan Capital, we are all native English speakers and are licensed and accredited across every country in the EU. If you would like clear advice for your specific situation as an expat in Europe, clarification about your situation, or a second opinion please contact us at [email protected].