Family Money: Sheltering Your Money Offshore
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.
Expats must ensure their financial base is both
flexible and adequately supported during times of uncertainty and
volatility, such as we have experienced in the past several months.
Wherever you are in the world, knowing how to mobilise
your assets effectively, swiftly and safely is considered by financial
managers as nothing short of essential. Leaving your capital to languish
in a bank deposit account may seem the safest thing to do, but it ensures
it is being eroded by inflation, and may be losing you alternative
investment opportunities that are still very low risk and likely to
produce a much better return, even in the relatively short term.
This preparation of money movement Ė often referred
to as "a flight to quality" Ė means expats should be asking
themselves the following questions:
*How safe is the jurisdiction in which my wealth is
*How safe are the key investment vehicles my money is
*How can I avoid capital loss?
*How accessible is my money if I decide to move it to
another investment instrument/provider?
When it comes to financial manoeuvring the entire
scenario facing any expat can be wrapped up as follows: What should I buy?
What should I sell? And when should I carry out these transactions?
A reputable independent financial adviser is the
individual with the critical skills most needed by expats who either
cannot answer those questions themselves or who are dissatisfied with the
answers they have been given by either their current adviser or provider.
What you are looking for is an experienced and
reputable adviser who:
*can answer your questions satisfactorily, in language
you can understand;
*will recommend a strategic course of action which is
in keeping with your overall financial goals and aspirations;
*can assist you with the effective mobilisation of your
*can assist you with carrying through the necessary
transactions, or carry them out on your behalf.
Whereís the best?
Next you need to check the regulatory environment in
which your monies are kept or will be kept. When you buy a house, you
probably pay at least as much attention to where the house is situated as
to the accommodation on offer. But how often do you stop to think where
your bank, financial adviser or product provider is situated, how that
jurisdiction is viewed and whether it has sound regulation to protect you
in case things go awry?
The choice of offshore jurisdiction has an important
bearing on the quality and security of investment products on offer and
the protection and compensation schemes available to investors: these are
key issues to research visŗvis any offshore financial centre. (The
countryís official web site is perhaps the best place to check on these
matters in the first instance.) A jurisdictionís approach to regulation
is demonstrated by how committed it appears to be in observing high
regulatory standards. For instance, in relation to banking, is it a member
of the Offshore group of Banking Supervisors?
Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man are all premier
offshore financial service centres with sound regulatory laws and the
necessary supervisory muscle to safeguard the reputation of those islandsí
financial services sector. For instance, the Isle of Manís Office of
Fair Trading has established an ombudsman whose job it is to arbitrate
between consumer-complainants and offshore financial servicesí
providers. This ensures a further layer of consumer interest and
protection within the industry, and has had a profound effect on the Isle
of Manís status as a leading offshore financial centre.
There is one other professional body which also has the
services of an ombudsman for expats, and that is the Offshore Financial
Trade Association (OFTA). OFTA has just celebrated its first anniversary,
and at the end of last year reported a total of 143 members with a further
28 being processed. Their director general was recently quoted as saying:
"The OFTA Ombudsman scheme is key to our aim of raising the level of
consumer protection in the industry. It is all the more vital as an
alternative dispute resolution mechanism because litigation for the
individual in the international arena is even more fraught than in the
But what if your preferred financial adviser is
operating from an unregulated environment Ė such as Thailand? Again you
can gain some peace of mind from asking the right questions: First, does
your money go directly to a reputable offshore investment provider, or via
your adviserís bank account? If the latter, steer clear. But if your
adviser never handles your money, but acts as an independent intermediary
between you Ė the investor Ė and a range of reputable offshore
providers, then you can be reasonably sure that the offshore provider has
already checked out his companyís modus operandi and bona fides, and is
satisfied that this intermediary is not going to run off with your money
and will deal with you honestly.
Ethics and "best advice" are a conjoined
subject which you should consider carefully before signing up for any
recommended investment. Consider whether it meets your investment
objectives, is within acceptable risk parameters, that you fully
understand how it works, the charges involved and any early redemption
penalties that might apply.
Ensure you know who will be providing you with ongoing
professional advice Ė and how frequently. Does your adviser or his firmís
designated portfolio manager have enough experience and track record of
success to be able to provide you with ongoing portfolio management on
either an advisory or discretionary basis, or is your adviser simply a
product salesman (at which many are very good, but hopeless when it comes
to constructing and managing a portfolio that is appropriate to your needs
and risk-aversion profile, and prevailing market conditions)?
Then, how long has your adviserís firm been in
business? How long has your adviser been with that firm? Lived in this
country? Worked for how many firms before this one? Does he have a Work
Permit? (Ask to see a copy.) Otherwise, what guarantee do you have that he
will be around to advise you after heís collected his first tranche of
commission? His word as a gentleman?
If thereís any doubt, thereís no doubt: ask what
alternatives are available, and go through the same steps to ensuring you
fully understand what it is you are investing in, for how long, and what
you can reasonably expect to get back. If the answers are less than
transparent or satisfactory, find an alternative adviser.
Personal Directions: Training is a long term investment in the future
By Christina Dodd,
founder and managing director of Asia Training Associates
When times are tough in business and the economy is equally
shaky, most companies tighten their belts and begin to put the brakes on
spending. Thatís the logical thing to do. They look more closely at ways of
saving on their budgets and sadly, that usually means cutting training budgets
first up. This is what most companies do. I donít agree at all with it but
this is the general reaction and trend that develops when the business climate
is far from favourable.
Recently, however, I was fortunate enough to prove this
general behavior wrong. Despite the SARS epidemic, which has had serious
consequences for many companies in the travel industry, and the overall
downturn in this industry on a global scale since September 11, a Dutch
gentleman by the name of Rob Waardenburg, who owns and runs Rowaco (Thailand)
Ltd, decided that this was the "perfect time" to invest in his
people and to "not" take anything away from them. He therefore
decided to treat them to a three-day teambuilding and motivational workshop
away from all the stress and worry of the business.
It really is refreshing to meet someone with insight and
vision. We had been talking for quite some time about doing some form of
training and I wasnít expecting it to come through at the time that it did.
Rob called me very eager to get on with things. We planned the program in a
matter of what seemed moments so that all the staff at Rowaco could get
together and be together for these very special three days. Rob had no doubt
that this was the best time to do it!
People seemed to fly in from all over, meeting up in
Bangkok for the initial part and then all traveling down to Cha-am for the
remaining two days. Staff had a rare opportunity to mix and share each otherís
company, have some fun, eat and drink and actively work together in a way that
they had never done before. No-one, except for two or three people including
Rob, had ever participated in a teambuilding program and certainly not one
like this. And on the insistence of the young Thai general manager, Khun
Boonthien, the whole office closed up bringing along all staff at every level
including the office maid, driver and building caretaker.
This is what it is all about - as far as I am concerned.
Everyone is important and has a role to play.
The three days brought out the best in each individual. It
was tough-going. No chance to just dance around and see the sights. It was
filled with activities to provoke thought and emotions at the deepest levels.
It was also a huge wake-up call for a lot who had become rather complacent in
their jobs and who had not been doing their fullest to contribute to the
Looking at specific problems and issues and then tailoring
the program content accordingly is the only way to present and conduct these,
or indeed, any program. It is so easy to just throw together some humorous
games and fun activities and let all the participants come away having had
"a great time" enjoying themselves and having had some good meals as
well. But that is not what it is about. Training has to be able to get to the
source of the problems that exist in order to address them and to begin to
change or rebuild or improve the situations that exist as a result.
Then it can go one step further. After the training and the
"feel good effect", what then? How do you as a manager or supervisor
or CEO keep the feeling alive? It takes a lot of work and a lot of effort to
do this because people so easily revert to their same old ways unless they
have committed seriously to doing otherwise.
I am a firm believer in following-up after all my programs.
Following-up to ensure the momentum is in place and that the benefits derived
short-term can be converted to long-term benefits. It is an integral part of
any training program otherwise people feel suddenly left up in the air to fend
or themselves, when they still need to know how to forge ahead with the same
enthusiasm and feeling they felt during the training program.
Usually two weeks after any program is a good opportunity
to recap and review the results. Also it is a good time to focus on other
areas that may need attention and sometimes it is only after an initial
program that theses areas surface and reveal themselves. In this way clients
are also adding to their long term investment in their people. Not just
abandoning them and saying, "well you did one program so you should know
If you are dealing with people in any kind of business and
you want to make a success of it, then you are in with those people for the
long haul. There is nothing instant when it comes to quality training unless
job specific of course. It all takes time and adults who work are just like
children, they have to be shown by example and in the simplest possible way in
order to get a clear and true picture of what is being conveyed.
As for Rowaco and follow-up, yes we will be doing it to
ensure the best possible results for them. No matter how large or small a
company, it is essential to continue with this process for a certain period.
Many companies I find are insisting on this process because they themselves
are not equipped to do it. Either their staff are not qualified, do not have
the time or do not have the resources. This is quite often the case and
personally I believe that it is more of a bonus in some ways to have
"different faces" involved because they take away from the sameness
that accompanies the usual HR faces and personalities of a company.
If you are looking for teambuilding or other management or
staff development programs, please email me at Christina.dodd@atasiam. com or
visit our website www.asiatrainingassociates.com
Until next time, have a wonderful week!
The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain
Corness: Athleteís foot - for the non-athletes!
by Dr. Iain Corness
It is that season again, when Athleteís Foot seems to be
on the increase. The hot soggy weather brings out the hot soggy condition
where the web between the toes gets so itchy you could happily scrape it with
a coarse file. But donít. Help is at hand.
Many people have a never-ending battle with Athleteís
Foot. This is one of the most common conditions in the world, and you
certainly do not have to be an athlete to get it - but it helps! Why? Because
athletes, like so many sporting groups, tend to stand around shower/changing
areas in their bare feet, spreading the little organism that causes the
So letís talk about the condition. The correct name is
Tinea, and we have several types depending upon the area of the body that is
affected. If it is in your scalp we call it Tinea capitis, on the body - Tinea
corporis, on the hands - Tinea manum, on the feet - Tinea pedis and in the
groin we call it Tinea cruris, otherwise known as Dhobie itch, Jock itch or
Crutch Rot! What a wonderful grab bag of conditions to say the least.
The organisms which cause all these are called
Dermatophytes, and they have the ability to live in skin and can invade hair
and even nails. The most common has the exciting name of Trichophyton rubrum,
a noble name for an organism that can live in the soggy bits between your
toes, Iím sure youíll agree.
The symptoms generally consist of a spreading
"rash" with reddened edges that becomes itchy and eventually quite
painful as the infection goes into the deeper layers of the skin. This is the
result of the organism putting out "tentacles" which extend deeper.
Yes, it is like a grass, growing and spreading its roots.
Unfortunately, there are a number of other conditions that
can make themselves evident in a similar fashion, including psoriasis, eczema
and some forms of dermatitis. This is the most usual reason for "Athletes
Foot" preparations not working - it wasnít "Athleteís Foot"
to begin with!
There are various methods of clinching the diagnosis,
including examination with a special Woodís Light, which allows you to look
at the affected region with UV light. The most accurate way, however, is to
take scrapings and examine under the microscope for the tell tale
So what can you do if it really is our friend Trichophyton
that is cropping up between your toes and other unmentionable places? The
first thing to do is not use high powered steroid creams, but use a topical
anti-dermatophyte preparation like Canesten cream. You can alternate with a
weak steroid, but remember that the steroid does not "cure" the
problem - it only masks it.
With some very stubborn cases it may be necessary to use
medication by mouth to attack the organism through the blood stream, but these
can have some fairly unpleasant and nasty side effects, especially on your
liver. If your liver is having problems straining the blood out of the beer
stream then you need extreme caution.
To prevent re-occurrence it is necessary to be very careful
where you put your toes, never share towels and jump over communal bath mats -
but even then you may find it comes back. Remnants of the organism start
putting out their tentacles and the cycle is on again. And stop scratching!
I canít beleieve (sic) what you said to the Irish
bloke, Caring Chris. His girl was obviously talking to other falang who
send money to her or visit her when they come on holiday. Itís a wonder
the poor guy in question didnít have to foot the bill for the Izuzu
(sic) pickupís axle. Long haired gentleman on a motor bike - Harley no
less, sounds like a decent citizen to me. Never met you but are you a man
(katoey in print drag)? Spent a good chunk of last year in good auld
Pattaya (8 months) not working enjoying, and had a decent shop working
girl friend, who I know has some other falang interest. Anyway what I want
to ask you (donít know if youíll publish this or not) is how to
amicabally (sic) end the relationship without: a) the girl in question
losing face, and: b) me in question not losing face as I have quite a few
Thai friends. Girl is a bit neurotic. In England I would just sit down
with a girl and talk and end things on a kind note. Thailand is a
different kettle of fish altogether (no promises of marriage etc.) no
money changing hands except for dinner and movies every now and again.
Known the girl for 3 years odd now, no calls for money for sick buffolo
(sic). Maybe Iím a cheap Charlie but didnít buy any gold - only thing
I bought was a pair of glasses for her. Only reason I send this e-mail is
because of the poor Irish bloke (me being Irish too) hit a note and wanted
Dear Not anon,
Thank you for your colourfully spelled email. You
appear not to understand Ďreading between the linesí in my advice to
Caring Chris, but donít let that influence your Irish viewpoint (or
spelling). Now to your problem and the parting of the ways for you and
your long term girlfriend. Looking dispassionately at the situation, you
are quite the heart and soul of generosity, arenít you? In 3 years you
bought her a pair of glasses! 175 baht from the stall at the side of the
road! (I am presuming that the gift was spectacles, and not a couple of
tumblers.) And you are worried about how to amicably end the relationship!
Just sit her down, as you would do in England, you say, and tell her to
put the glasses on and look carefully at you. She should see just what a
cheap Charlie you really are, and will run for cover like a startled
gecko. As far as her having another male interest, can you blame her? You
gave her no money, no gold, no promises of marriage, but took her for
dinner and a movie "every now and again." I feel sorry for the
poor girl, she must be soft in the head, as well as being blind, to put up
with someone so mean for so long. As far as Hillary being a katoey - you
have to be joking, Petal, surely! Let me assure you that Hillary is no
katoey - Hillary works on the WYSIWYG principle. What You See Is What You
I have a local bar that I frequent and like many expat
bars in Thailand, there appears to be an endless supply of young ladies to
keep one company when you go in to have a cold one. During a rainstorm the
other evening, one young thing told me that her apartment roof leaked very
badly and so I took pity on her and gave her some dry shelter for the
evening. This act of charity is now backfiring badly, as when I drop in
for a chat and a gargle on a coldie, all the girls rush off and get Miss
Lasnite Leekiroof, and now I seem to be stuck with her. She is a nice
enough sort of girl, but she hardly bowls me over. This cramps my style,
and not what I want in my local bar, where I want to be footloose and
fancy free. How do I get to play the field again, Miss Hillary?
Are you the same "Shane! I warned you about
those tablets" who was in the news recently? If so, no wonder you donít
want to be bowled over by a mere slip of a girl, and want to get back to
play the field. Fortunately in the types of local bars you frequent, you
donít have to play at first slip forever. All you need to do next time
you pop down for a quick cold beer is to tell Miss Lasnite Leekiroof, when
the other girls push her in your direction, that you would actually like
to talk to her sister Miss Neksnite Leekiroof, and hereís a 100 baht if
you will bring her over to you and make the introduction. I think you will
find that 100 baht introduction fee should be enough to mend her broken
heart, or to stuff into the cracks in the leaking roof.
Camera Class: To shoot like a pro - read like a pro
People who enjoy taking photographs often wonder what it
would be like to take photos for a living, or even just as a little "pin
money". Some of the best photographers I know started just that way. They
enjoyed working with their camera, somebody saw their work and asked them to
take a photograph for them, paid them some money and they were off and running!
Harry Flashman began the same way. Wanting to take a shot of
a bright pink concrete truck, I contacted the concrete company. As a Ďthank
youí I gave them a large print. That shot ended up giving me a three year
contract to do a glamour calendar for the company. I was off and running too! A
In those early days, I had one essential piece of equipment
that I still have today, and still use today - no, it wasnít the tripod. It
was a book! Written by professional photographer, Richard Sharabura, it was
called "Shooting your way to a $ Million". Written in 1981, the advice
is just as pertinent today as it was 22 years ago. Anyone who has ever
contemplated any form of "pay me for my pictures" should read this
One of the finest pieces of advice I was given in the early
days, which I also got out of a book, was just "Without any pictures, you
are just a gypsy with a camera." In other words, it is no good just saying
you can take photographs - you have to have some examples to show people. Now in
the pro world, this is called your "book" or your portfolio. This is
looked at by an art director, who then decides if he likes your work, he will
give you more. It is that simple.
For you, just starting off, if you know of someone who wants
pictures taken of their restaurant food, it doesnít do much to show them 48
great shots you have taken of horses. At the early stage, you need to have good
shots of different subjects - people, lifestyles, food, cars, horses, golf,
kids, portraits, sunsets, nightlife, samlors, - you must be getting the idea by
now! Stick them in an album and you have something to tote around to show
So how do you get to take great shots of people, lifestyles,
food, cars, horses, golf, kids, etc., etc.? Well, you read about it in books,
thatís how! Did you know that everything you ever needed to know about taking
pictures has already been written down for you? Master photographers have spent
great chunks of their lives to tell you and me how to do it! Sometimes you may
think that the photography books you buy are too expensive, but how many books
that you buy will tell you how to make money with them after reading them?
Of course you do have to do a little more than just reading.
You do have to take photos as well! A good exercise is to imagine that you are a
newspaper photographer, taking pictures for a paper just like the one you are
reading right now! Pretend that the editor is sending you out to cover a
feature, and give yourself one feature every weekend. So each week you have an
assignment (this is a good exercise for students also) and go out and cover it
pictorially. Hereís a few for you to try: the bus station, shopping,
nightlife, the local laundry, life as a petrol pump attendant, beggars, and
taxis. The list is as big as your imagination.
Now go out and illustrate that topic, as if the editor had
told you to cover it. Make your shots describe the action, scene or activity.
Think about how you are going to do it and how you are going to show it. Make
the subject the "hero" and use plenty of film.
You get better in photography by doing it more often - just read all about it
Recipes from Rattana: Plakapong Manao - Fish with Lemon sauce
This weekís recipe is for the fish lovers out there and
almost all types of fish can be used, but the readily available local plakapong
works well here. The recipe calls for four long red chillies, but if the family
like this toned down, you can simply reduce the number, and I recommend that
you remove the seeds before chopping. With all chillies, remember not to rub
your eyes after working with them!
Ingredients serves 2-4
Plakapong 1 medium
Cooking oil 30 ml
Garlic finely chopped 2 cloves
Chillies, long red finely chopped 4
Fish sauce 30 ml
Lemon juice 15 ml
Sugar 2 tbspns
Soup stock 60 ml
Flour 2 tbspns
Coriander leaves as garnish
Clean the fish, rinse and pat dry. Now shallow fry the fish,
making sure it remains moist, remove and set aside.
Heat the oil and add the garlic frying until it is golden in
colour. Now add the chillies, stirring quickly and then the fish sauce, lemon
juice, sugar and soup stock.
Pre-mix the flour with 30 ml of water and add 5ml of the flour mixture at a
time to thicken the sauce slightly. When the consistency is thick enough, place
the fish on a serving platter and pour the hot sauce over it. Garnish with
coriander leaves and serve immediately.
Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums
In this issue I am going to focus on a question which is
often on my mind, and I am pretty sure on yours too, as I get a lot of
questions about this. Can I speed up / improve my internet connection?
I am sure many of you have seen the claims in the pop-up
adverts on many web sites which state: "WARNING. Your Internet
Connection is not optimized!" or "Speed up your Internet Speed 3
times." Is this just so much hot air, or do these boosters really
exist? Just what is bandwidth and what has it got to do with my internet
What is bandwidth?
Lets start with bandwidth. A very simple analogy to
understand bandwidth and internet traffic is to think of highways and cars.
Bandwidth is the number of lanes on the highway and traffic is the number of
cars on the highway. If you are the only car on a highway, you can travel
very quickly. If one lane is closed or if you are stuck in the middle of
rush hour, you may travel very slowly since all of the lanes are being used
What is Thailandís internet highway network?
Basically Thailand has four fibre optic cables which
carry our traffic to the world. Two can be considered superhighways similar
to an 8 lane motorway in the USA, Europe or Australia. One is a two lane
country road and the fourth is a footpath. Any loss of signal or problem
with any one of these cables seriously impacts on our ability to connect to
the world wide web and the result is really slow downloading and frequent
time out messages. "Error: The requested URL could not be
Can you really accelerate?
ISDN, ADSL, Cable and Satellite are all options we can
consider apart from dial-up modem connections. In Thailand, price must be a
consideration. Also, there is some software available which can tune up your
computerís dial-up settings. However, if thereís one thing I have
learned in Thailand, that is: fastest is not always best.
Can I improve modem speed?
Modem speeding packages have been around since Internet
use became widespread and for many years I have used a couple of different
applications to improve performance.
Speeding your dial-up connection doesnít necessarily
make your modem connect at a faster speed. The speed indicator that your
modem gives you is actually deceptive. For example, if you connect at
28,800, that is the optimal speed that your modem and the service providerís
modem negotiated when you connected. But that doesnít mean that the
packets of information being sent between those modems is traveling at that
speed. In fact, they are probably sending and receiving information at a
speed that varies depending on the packet sizes (based on your computer
settings) and on how busy the service providerís server is at that time.
Another example is the 56k modem. Although they are meant
to connect at 56k, most of the phone lines in the world canít handle
transmitting information at that speed. So even though it may say it is
connected at 56k, it is probably really communicating at a lesser speed.
This is especially true here in Thailand where phone line quality seriously
These kinds of applications help your modem &
computer work more efficiently and effectively. You will not necessarily see
a change in your connection speed. Rather, you should see an enhancement of
your existing connection, resulting in increased speed in browsing the
Here is one of the applications which I have successfully
used. Modem Boost is available from http://www.modemboost.com and gets a 4
Star rating. Best of all its FREE.
More recent accelerator offerings allow you use your PC
to store web pages and/or smart caching of web pages on dedicated web
So whatís the difference and whatís a cache?
The concept behind this is simple enough. Somewhere in
the world, someone has provided a computer which provides space for your
internet browser to store web pages. Alternatively this space may be on your
own computer. Obviously you also have to use an application which links to
this service. When you go to a web site, your internet browser (say Internet
Explorer/Netscape and the application) save the web page you visit on this
server or your PC. When you go back to this web page sometime later, the
server or your computer already has the page stored and so it can be
displayed faster because its already stored waiting for you to see.
The disadvantage of this system is if the web page is
dynamic and the content frequently changes, you may be looking at something
that is out of date next time you visit. However, some tricky programmers
thought of this. Content from your first visit can now be stored and then
later visits limit the information you download to only the content that
changes, making for a faster download.
Variations to the theme include applications which browse
ahead of you and looks for links on any web page you visit and start to
store web page content which you may or may not visit.
You get the idea. The pages you frequently visit are
stored somewhere and when you visit that web site again, its much simpler to
just recall what is already stored. Just to make life even more interesting,
this service has developed to the point where the service providers have
located computers around the world so you can store your web page visits on
a computer that is close to your location, making for even faster loading
onto your PC.
Most of these services are piggybacked to your choice of
Internet Browser. Artera and Propel are both services which can speed up
first visits to web sites by compressing page text and graphics. Proxycon
relies on some exceptional technology to cache information on its servers.
However, be prepared for monthly fees as these services are not free.
Artera can be downloaded from Artera Group at www.
arteragroup.com and costs $10US per month. Itís easy to use but the least
effective of the three and gets a 3 star rating. Propel Accelerator can be
downloaded from www.propel.com and is speedy, inexpensive and the most
configurable service. A cost $5US per month gets a 4 star rating. Last but
not least, Proxyconn Accelerator is a good choice if you visit the same
sites over and over again. You can download this one from www.proxy conn.com
and gets a rating of 3-1/2 for a cost of $9US per month.
If you have any tips that youíd like to share, or any
questions about your internet or pc experience, contact me: Dr Byte,