Family Money: Know Thy Client
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.
Each investor is an individual, and no two are ever
quite the same. That’s one of the factors that make the financial
services industry so fascinating.
Fundamentally, the financial services business is
founded upon relationships. Even those investors who do it all themselves
may still have to deal with a disembodied voice on the telephone 10,000
miles away, or someone on the other end of a computer network.
Many investors prefer the personal approach, and want
to deal with a personal financial adviser, or portfolio manager. But
before that client will do business with him, the adviser will have had to
establish a certain level of trust and rapport with the client.
Sadly, many financial advisers are concerned not with
giving their clients “best advice”, but only how much money they can
make for themselves in the immediate short term. Also, many financial
advisers try to sell ‘one-size-fits-all’ investments, which may be
inappropriate to that particular client’s needs & circumstances.
Similarly, few IFA’s are prepared to put in the time
and effort necessary to building a long-term relationship with their
clients once the initial sale is made, and provide the level of service
required to keep a client “loyal”.
In the initial stages, and in order to provide ongoing
best advice, a financial adviser has to understand as much as he can about
his clients’ circumstances and financial aspirations. So a detailed
fact-find should be conducted in their first meeting, from which the
adviser should formulate appropriate recommendations.
These would typically be presented to the client in a
second meeting, rather than pulling out a glossy brochure and
“selling” the client during the first meeting what might turn out to
be an inappropriate investment. All too often in such instances the client
has not understood the investment product and how it works, the charges
that will be levied, and any penalties that will be applied should he stop
it early. He is sold the benefits without being made aware of the
The newly affluent
In the financial trade press there has been much
discussion of the opportunity the mass affluent represent to the IFA
community, but most IFA’s are poorly prepared to address those
When a new kind of client emerges, they often do not
fit neatly into the IFA’s existing business model. Not so long ago,
affluence was primarily a function of birth: the baby-boomer generation
changed all that. Having redefined what growing up was all about in the
60s, they then moved on to begin a revolution in the workplace in the 70s.
The importance of intellectual property meant they could demand a link
between their value to their employers and the remuneration they received
for it. In the 80s, the UK was awash with ‘yuppies’ and Mrs.
Thatcher’s ‘trickle-down’ theory accelerated the distribution of
So the mass affluent have typically made their money
themselves and usually through employment. And that is why they won’t
adapt themselves to supplier behaviour. The more successful they are, the
more confident they become, and as their confidence grows they are
increasingly demanding of good value products and high quality service.
They share another characteristic: they are
promiscuous. Their loyalty to any particular financial adviser is directly
related to the value that IFA delivers. And if the IFA fails them,
The reason any of this matters is that there is little
point in recognising the mass affluent as an important market if we in the
financial services industry aren’t able to woo you and keep you
satisfied. We have to invest time in understanding how our clients behave
and what drives that behaviour.
Research into a number of focus groups, supported by
quantitative input from the MORI Financial Services continuous tracking
survey, uncovered three key factors:
Understanding: If consumers have a grasp of the
products available to solve a given financial requirement then it’s
easier for them to act.
Interest: Interested consumers will invest time and
effort in keeping on top of their finances.
Organisation: Consumers who are poorly organised will
By allocating high or low scores to each of these we
find several different types.
A person who scores high on all three will display
particular and predictable behavioural characteristics as a result. High
organisation will force him to get things done, high understanding will
give him the confidence to do it, and high interest will mean he knows how
to go about it. This person reads the personal finance press or uses the
internet. He is likely to buy direct, believing that if he had the time he
could do as well as any professional. He expects high performance and
plenty of contact.
Alternatively, someone who scores low on both
understanding and interest but high on organisation requires completely
different handling. His bewilderment makes him unsure and slow to commit
to any investment program, but he’s driven by the need to get things
done. In the discussion stage the IFA will need to earn his trust. After
the program is up and running he will be content if his IFA’s
administration is efficient and he’s given a call every six months.
Between these extremes we might consider the group who,
though high on understanding and organisation, score low on interest. They
can’t be bothered to deal with it themselves because it doesn’t
interest them – although, being organised, they recognise the need to
deal with it; but the confidence they derive from understanding means
they’re delighted to give their financial adviser the problem.
This research reveals that the mass affluent represent
many different segments, rather than just one group. The research explains
not just how these segments behave but gives an insight into why.
It’s not enough simply to announce one’s interest
in the mass affluent and expect them to form a queue. Success is reserved
for those financial advisers who are prepared to take the time to segment
them into smaller groups and understand how each behaves and why. And then
find them the investment vehicle that most closely matches their
particular needs, aspirations, and investor profile.
Personal Directions: The Great Secret: Organization
By Christina Dodd,
founder and managing director of Asia Training Associates
Normally when we hear the term “organization” we think
of something rather ordinary and mundane. However, if we look a little closer,
we will find that organization is one of the great secrets of life.
We all know that we can organize our lives in better ways;
such as by keeping an accurate and up to date to-do list, or keeping up on our
bookkeeping, or ordering our priorities in life. When we take such actions we
are in essence organizing our consciousness.
There are a number of ways we can organize our
consciousness, our being; e.g. by a greater degree of direction in
life, through higher skills and knowledge, greater energy,
greater strength, more goodness toward others, by implementing
personal values in our lives, through positive attitudes, and in
many other ways. As we organize our consciousness, we grow and evolve; we
achieve and succeed, we find happiness and joy in life.
Organization is not of course just limited to the
individual. A business for example can also organize itself. When a company
organizes such components as its job positions, activities, systems, and
focuses its direction, goals, and values, it is organizing itself to a higher
level, which inevitably results in greater revenues, profitability, energy,
satisfaction, and success.
Higher organization is also available for any social
entity, institution, community, nation, as well as the world itself. Like a
business any social entity can evaluate itself and rise to higher levels of
organization. What is particularly interesting is that not only can it
organize itself internally but it can also learn to organize itself externally,
through higher levels of cooperation, coordination, and integration with other
related social entities.
Surely the world would be a better place if there was more
of such cooperation and integration among the nations of the world. For
example, when there is a dearth of food in impoverished nations, it is not
because there is not enough food in the world, it is because of lack of
cooperation, coordination, and integration - i.e. organization - amongst the
Consider this dictum: “all problems in life are
essentially problems of harmony.”
When an individual organizes himself he is creating greater
internal harmony. For example, when a social entity organizes itself with
other social entities, it creates greater external harmony. In either case,
higher organization results in higher harmony, unity, and oneness of purpose.
In such an atmosphere, there is an enormous energy built up that inevitably
will lead to great achievement, success, and joy in life.
If we examine the world we will see that everywhere there
is a movement toward greater, ever-accelerating organization. The
Internet is only the latest example. It is the ultimate, dense, multi-system
organization; and it is shared by all the world. Such developments of
organization in the world are a reflection of the emerging power of the human
mind in the world. That power is accelerating in the last several decades,
reflecting the evolutionary movement of humanity up from a physical and
vital-based consciousness to a more mental based consciousness.
That power of mind in the world is in fact the power of
organization. The Internet has come about because of the further emergence of
this power of mind in humanity. Whereas the human body gives substance to our
being; it is the physical part of us; and the vital is the energizing force in
us, mind is the ordering mechanism of life; it serves the purpose of
ordering and organizing the world we live in for us.
As we know the mind organizes life around us through the
functioning of our senses. It also has the capacity to think independent of
the senses, as when we think logically or self-conceptualize the world. In
either case it is organizing data, information and ideas. The physical brain
itself is a vast amalgam of neurons and other parts that organizes pulses as
data, and develops them into stored knowledge, and formulates them as ideas.
This is interestingly not so different from a company which organizes its
activities, or the Internet organizing information and knowledge, or social
entities, such as nations, coordinating and integrating with one another, and
Perhaps we can even say that the universe itself is a vast
and complex organization, with its processes and functions that are organized,
coordinated, and integrated.
We can also see that higher organization inevitably means
higher progress; such as personal growth for the individual, or more
development for the business or the social entity. So higher organization is
higher growth and development. Perhaps we can also say that higher
organization is higher consciousness, because whenever we develop further we
are increasing our level of consciousness.
Finally, beyond the powers of mind to organize, there are
powers of spirit itself to organize. As we learn to tap into the powers of the
spiritual mind we can really learn to organize our consciousness, enabling the
greatest power and efficiencies of life. As we organize ourselves as spiritual
beings, we open to the infinite potentials, possibilities, and powers
So we are left to ask these questions. What then will we do
today to raise our level of organization - for ourselves as individuals, for
our companies, or the institutions and social entities we partake of?
If you wish to talk further on matters of personal and self
development, or on matters that concern your business, the effectiveness and
needs of your staff, then please contact me directly at Asia Training
Associates – email: christina [email protected] atasiam.com
For details on our programs and Asia Training Associates,
please visit our website: www.asiatrainin gassociates.com
Until next time … Have a Great Week!
The Doctor's Consultation:
Dangerous Liaisons! Lots of them!
by Dr. Iain Corness
Well, that got your interest up, didn’t it? There are
(have been) plenty of dangerous liaisons in the world, and we’ve probably
all had one (or two)? However, the liaisons I want to discuss today are the
interactions between various drugs and how to avoid a fairly explosive
situation in the way some drugs can interact with you. This is a topic I
discussed a year or so ago, but is still one of the big problem areas in the
What is the commonest drug taken by human beings in the
western world? Hands up all of you who said alcohol. Yes, our old friend
ethanol, AKA booze, is really a drug. It is a depressant, it dilates arteries
and does all kinds of neat things to the body (and the brain). One of the big
problems though, is that alcohol can heighten the effects of other drugs. In
other words, it is not a simple 1+1 additive effect - the combination
multiplies the effects of both the alcohol and the other drug too. For
example, the anti-anxiety drug Valium (which I used to call the “Health Food
of the Nation” in my younger and more cynical days) plus alcohol make a very
nasty cocktail. This combination produces “space” travel without having to
go to Cape Canaveral. A most dangerous way to be bombed out of your brain.
Simple cough medicines are another group of drugs that do
not combine well with alcohol. A couple of beers and a shot of something for
your cough can combine to produce a lethal combination. Lethal in the fact
that the interaction can make you fall asleep at the wheel.
Let’s imagine that you have now found out that you have
high blood pressure and have gone on a type of medication called Beta
Blockers. They do work well at reducing blood pressure. They also stop
trembling hands, and many people take them for this - even concert pianists.
There are some drawbacks, though. One it can exacerbate asthma, and two, it
can make Willy the Wonder Wand not work like it used to. A dangerous way to
draw a halt to dangerous liaisons!
Some of you will be on medication to reduce your blood
sugar, a condition we sometimes called NIDDM (Non Insulin Dependent Diabetes
Mellitus). You may also get indigestion. There is a particularly nasty
interaction between certain sugar reducers and some antacids, which can make
you go into a hypoglycaemic coma. Again, not the best way to spend a Saturday
Now here’s one for all the people who have had a stroke,
or a heart attack or a deep vein thrombosis and have been put on a blood
thinner, such as warfarin (also known as “rat poison”). Got a headache
today? Taken a common old aspirin for it? You have just set the scene for a
haemorrhage, as the effects of these two are again multiplied.
So just what is the message I am putting across this week?
Well, it is simple. Whilst it is great that you can just wander into a
pharmacy and buy all the cheap drugs you want and self-medicate with whatever
you think you need, there can be a downside to all this. And it can be a big
downside. Letting your doctor prescribe is much safer than doing it yourself.
After all, the doctor has been trained to look for the dangerous liaisons!
This is a very quick note to you explaining where the word spam as used in
e-mail jargon comes from. It is from a Monty Python sketch about a cafe
serving everything as long as it had spam in it. Monty Python was a great
comedy series on the BBC in England. If you didn’t get to see it, you
missed some really good TV.
A delightful, but not quite accurate, explanation of the origin of the
term “spam”. SPAM (capitals) is a type of corned meat which was famous
in the UK during the war years and immediately post war. It is still
available on the shelves, both here as well as in the UK, George, and made
by Hormel Foods. While “spam” (all lower case) refers to Unsolicited
Commercial Email (UCE). The following I gleaned from the SPAM people
themselves: “Use of the term “spam” was adopted as a result of the
Monty Python skit in which our SPAM meat product was featured. In this
skit, a group of Vikings sang a chorus of “spam, spam, spam...” in an
increasing crescendo, drowning out other conversation. Hence, the analogy
applied because UCE was drowning out normal discourse on the Internet.
We do not object to use of this slang term to describe UCE, although we do
object to the use of the word “spam” as a trademark and to the use of
our product image in association with that term. Also, if the term is to
be used, it should be used in all lower-case letters to distinguish it
from our trademark SPAM, which should be used with all uppercase letters.
Today’s teens and young adults are more computer savvy than ever, and
the next generations will be even more so. Children will be exposed to the
slang term “spam” to describe UCE well before being exposed to our
famous product SPAM. Ultimately, we are trying to avoid the day when the
consuming public asks, “Why would Hormel Foods name its product after
Unfortunately, Mr. Hormel, I think that day is here already!
Can YOU tell me whether my girlfriend has to go back to her village to get
her driver license, or can she do the license testing anywhere else?
Everyone we ask seems to have a different idea. She can drive, but I have
told her that it is important that she gets a license as well. Do you have
a license? Can you help?
What do you think I am running here? The motor vehicle licensing column?
Do I have a license? Petal, I have a chauffeur, I wouldn’t dream of
driving myself around. After all, when arriving at Hi-So do’s you
can’t really ask the man with the red carpet to wait a bit while you
park the pickup, now can you? If I can’t get a chauffeur, then I don’t
go. Why don’t YOU go to the licensing place and ask there? Or is that
too obvious? One thing I do know is that if she has no license then your
insurance is also null and void.
A very good friend that I have known for a long time and who works out of
the capital is going through a bad patch. He doesn’t know whether he
should give up his job and move away, or stay where he is, but where he is
not happy. I have told him he would have no trouble getting another job,
but he seems reluctant to let go of this one that he has got. What can I
do to get him to move up to Bangkok? I would be able to take care of him
better if he lived in Bangkok. How do I get him to see what is best for
him? Even his friends say it would be better for him to move. What
suggestions do you have, Hillary. We all want the best for him, so it is
sometimes so frustrating when he does not see what to do himself. Probably
can’t see the way out of the wood for the trees I suppose. Anyway if you
could answer this quickly it would be good as then I can show it to him
and get him to come to his senses.
There is one person who has not been consulted here. That person is your
“very good friend”. Don’t you think that he should have some say in
all this? You and his friends (according to you) have decided it is better
for him to relocate. Have you stopped to think why does he not think the
same way? He is the one with the “bad patch” you tell me - so let him
work out what he is happy at doing. All you have to do is be there for him
if he needs support with his decisions. That is support, my Petal, not
telling him what to do. Unsolicited advice is never appreciated.
Camera Class: Cartophily for amateurs, or collecting naughty
by Harry Flashman
new social order is upon us, and there are mutterings that nipples are going to
be a no-no in the go-go chrome pole palaces. That made me think of cartophiles.
A new perversion? Of course it was! After the Victorian era, Prince Edward VII
took the throne of England in 1901 and a new age of permissiveness took hold in
the photographic industry, and the naughty postcard was born.
One could have easily predicted the new lewd, or perhaps that
should have been the lewd nude, was coming, as towards the end of the 1800’s
relaxing of the previously strict laws regarding the showing of female anatomy
was becoming evident. Take for example, the Chicago Fair of 1893. Photographs
and reports of Fahreda Mahzar Spyropolos’s naked navel still exist today. In
fact, her anatomical bit managed to change the fair from downright flop to
financial success. She was the famous “Little Egypt” who did her belly dance
in front of amazed (and outraged) clerics, whose reports of the lewd behaviour
brought the crowds in their thousands flocking to the fair. Ms Spyropolos
certainly knew that sex sells, even if it were only a belly button.
The newspaper business also knew that a bit of female anatomy
helped an otherwise staid selection of newsprint to become wanted items. This
was not something that Rupert Murdoch and his page 3 girls started, no matter
how much the Murdoch publicity machine would have you think. The New York Police
Gazette (now there’s a catchy title for a paper - sorry about the pun!) began
publishing illustrated supplements of actresses and dancers in the 1890’s and
even offered “cabinet-sized finished photographs” described as the snappiest
of all girl pictures.
And then there was “Photo Bits” - an English magazine
started in 1898, which became Photo Fun in 1908 to run double page pin-ups,
copies of which could be purchased for nine pence (including postage) and were
advertised as being suitable for billiard or smoking rooms.
However, it was the “feelthy postcards” that really
brought the pin-up to pride of place on the locker room wall. Once again it was
the French who did all the running. Seeing the success of postcard pictures of
the Eiffel Tower, enterprising photographers began in earnest that most noble of
artistic pursuits - persuading young ladies to pose in their pink one-buttons.
They were successful too. In 1910, more than 100 million were
printed in France alone, and by that stage the rest of the world was producing
theirs as well. The cartophiles were being very well catered for!
The large postcard had only one problem - it was difficult to
carry around. Enter the cigarette card. These so-called “stiffeners” of soft
cigarette packets very quickly realized the collectible value of continental
actresses and others eager to return to nature in return for cash that could
allow themselves to purchase expensive dresses to cover up again.
But beauty lay in the eye of the beholder, and the Edwardian
cartophile beholders were fleshy (fleshly?) fat persons, who consumed large
dinners and showed their wealth through an excess of avoirdupois. Their ideal
female was then the same - big hunks of women with large bellies and legs that
looked as if they would hold up billiard tables. However, although the modesty
was starting to disappear, the neck to knee flesh coloured “tights” were
still de rigeur for anything other than the true ‘nude study’ which was
paraded under the title of ‘art’. A bit of chiffon and a rose was all that
was needed to elevate the naughty nude to an artistic study, incidentally, both
being props still in use today!
It did not stop there, of course, and post WWII, the
photographic industry pushed the boundaries even further and the bits of chiffon
and the appropriately placed rose were also discarded by many. A quick glance at
a Pirelli calendar will show you that.
However, the wheel may now be going full circle. Stock up on
chiffon and scoop the market!
Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums
IGiven that the last two weeks have seen the largest
attack on the Internet in the world so far, barely a story can go by without
mention of two protection essentials - anti-virus products and firewalls. If
you haven’t heard about what has been happening with the Internet,
you’re probably not a user or were traveling around the remotest of
Many people offer advice about safety, virus’s, Trojans
and this column has added its fair share to the mileage. This week I want to
discuss a couple of recent gadgets you might just find useful in the battle
against spyware, hackers and so on. Some of your letters to me have
highlighted several very interesting areas of concern.
Q. Dear Dr Byte
Can you suggest any tools that will protect my computer
from someone accessing and controlling my computer from somewhere else?
What worries me is that I understand from all the recent
news regarding the Sobig and Blaster viruses, they infect your computer with
sneak attacks through open back doors (I didn’t know there was a back door
on a computer).
Worried and frustrated
A. There are many kinds of safety-focused programs
hoping to earn a place in your toolbox. Like a handyman’s favourite
gadget, some of these tools have just one or two specialist functions. They
can ward off browser hijackers, remove spying software or reject the ploys
Most were born of necessity, created by irritated
experts, annoyed developers or victims who decided to get their own back.
Back in 1997, Perth-based developer Wayne Langlois was a
victim of a Trojan - a sneaky program used by hackers to control other
people’s computers. It only happened once, however, but Langlois turned
the experience into an Australian software success story.
“One of my systems was infected with one of the first
remote access Trojans ever released, called NetBus,” says Langlois, who
was a security researcher at the time.
“I was made aware that the system was infected when the
CD-ROM drive opened on its own and abusive messages started to show on
screen - it was quite obvious that somebody was ‘inside’ the system, due
to that level of control. You can’t remotely open CD drives, you need to
be running inside the system to be able to do that.
“So, from there it was just a matter of basic forensic
analysis to find the culprit file and trace back to the hacker. I was easily
able to obtain the hacker’s IP address [a computer’s address on the
net], and after I started running scans on his computer he quickly realised
that I had found him.”
It was enough to persuade the hacker to leave, and it
gave Langlois a business idea, the result of which is a highly regarded
security product called Trojan Defence Suite (TDS). These days, many
anti-virus products also detect Trojans, but there’s room for a specialist
solution. “Viruses and remote access Trojans are physically different,
they work differently and they have different approaches to infection.
“If you’re infected with a Trojan and I connect to
your system, I can literally make your computer do anything ... I could
plant material and then call the police.” TDS is just one of many useful
tools that allows Internet users to take control of some of the problems
they face online.
horseman Product: Trojan Defence Suite
History buffs will know of the Trojan horse. In a
computer, a Trojan stealthily provides a hacker with means into your files
and ultimately control of the system as if they were seated in front of it.
TDS can identify more than 8000 Trojans (plus 10,000 or
so variants) and promises to raise the alarm even if a previously unknown
program starts behaving suspiciously. It costs AUD$49 for a single user.
Other Trojan fighters include Trojan Hunter, BOClean and The Cleaner.
Website: tds.diamondcs. com.au
Q. Dear Dr Byte
I visited some porn websites last week and my computer
came to a shuddering halt as page after web page kept opening automatically.
It wasn’t me. Something took control of my computer. And yes, I know I
shouldn’t be viewing these kinds of sites, but I was curious.
Im still trying to stop my computer going to one of these
sites every time I turn on the pc. Is there anything I can do?
Wat Ket, Chiang Mai
A. Well they do say curiosity killed the cat. But in
answer to your plea, yes here are some tools that will help.
Hijack defender - Product:
Start Page Guard
Some programs and web pages can use malicious code,
particular site - often not a very tasteful one at that! Browser hijacking
is particularly a problem for Internet Explorer. Sometimes the solution is
as simple as changing the home page yourself. Other times, it’s not so
easy. Depending on the hijack technique, the settings can revert back the
next time you restart. So, you may have to edit the windows registry
(delicate work) or locate a malicious program that’s hiding on your
computer. Website: www.pjwalczak. com/spguard
This free program (StartPage Guard) stops unwanted
changes to the browser, including Start and Search pages, and it can get rid
of many known offenders.
Spyware spies - Product:
I have already talked about Ad-Aware before. And okay,
not all advertising-supported software is bad. But those systems that
aren’t up front about how they work, the information they collect and the
resources they drain are certainly giving the rest a bad name. As insidious
as the name suggests, “spyware” is a pet hate of Internet users (not far
behind spam in the unpopularity stakes). Ad-Aware won the gratitude and
allegiance of thousands when it offered an easy way to identify and remove
all traces of the worst offenders. Happily, Ad-Aware and Spybot Search &
Destroy (spybot.safer-networking .de) is building on the foundations. Both
programs are free. Website: www.lavasoftusa.com
There are other tools for protecting your browser’s
health and these can be found at Mike Healan’s anti-spyware site
Help with helpers
Product: BHODemon: Browser Helper Objects (BHOs) are
small programs that run whenever you start the browser. They can be helpful
and powerful, but as with most good things, there’s a dark side, too.
Privacy exponents worry that these can be installed without a user’s
knowledge and put in place by another program. For example, the notorious
Go!Zilla program uses a BHO to track advertisements surfers see. The free
program BHODemon from Definitive Solutions lets users manage BHOs, see which
ones are installed, what they’re up to and offers to disable them.
Website: www. definitivesolutions.com
Product: ShieldsUP! The creator of the first spyware
removal tool (the predecessor of Ad-Aware), Gibson Research Corporation
offers a variety of tools, but the most popular is a security check-up
called ShieldsUP!, which is free and performed online. There are plenty of
other bits and pieces to interest the security conscious. One is a LeakTest
- a testing tool to check if your firewall can be easily tricked. Another
colourfully named Windows utility is UnPlug n’ Pray, which will
automatically disable a service Gibson says is downright dangerous.
There are other great security sites out there.
Wilders.org Security Advisors has a great listing of security products,
including free anti-virus tools, anti-virus add-ons and firewall accessories
such as report-makers and log analysers. Meanwhile, The Home PC Firewall
Guide’s motto says it all: The Internet is a hostile network like the Wild
West without a sheriff. Website: grc.com
My thanks to Nicole Manktelow for some of the above
information. If you have any questions or tips which you would like to share
with me, contact Dr Byte at Chiangmai Mail.
Ask your local US Consul
I keep seeing ads for places that offer ‘visa
services.’ Do they do anything? Are they legal? Do they improve my chances
of getting my girlfriend a visa?
- Looking for a Way In
Dear Mr. In (and I’m going to presume you’re
referring to getting *in the country*), No. Yes. No. Next question.
Ok, ok, here comes my favorite answer: It depends. One
perfectly legal and helpful service some of these agencies provide is
assistance with mail-in visa applications, when the country to be visited
doesn’t have a Consulate in Chiang Mai. The U.S. does not accept mail-in
applications for nonimmigrant visas, no matter where the applicant lives.
But that doesn’t mean these agencies can’t serve a useful purpose when
it comes to U.S. visas.
If you were getting married and wanted to get an
immigrant (permanent) visa, you would soon find that the process is somewhat
convoluted and involves a lot of paperwork. (You’re shocked, I can tell.)
This is even more the case if your girlfriend were applying for an immigrant
visa on the basis of a category such as “Extraordinary Alien” (and no,
I’m not making that up. How could I?). An agency might save you time and
grief in sorting through those regulations.
I say “might”, because an agency is only going to
help if they have staff who are familiar with the intricacies of the
ever-changing U.S. immigration laws, and because you’re almost certainly
capable of doing the paperwork yourself, especially if you’re the sort of
person who enjoys doing his own taxes. Using an agency will only speed up
the immigration process in the sense that a correctly-filed application will
be processed before an incorrect or incomplete one, which will be returned
to you for revision. That works both ways, of course: it’s not unheard-of
for the agency to be the ones to file the application incorrectly. Caveat
With U.S. nonimmigrant (tourist) visas, an agency can
help in two ways: One, if the applicant doesn’t read or write English,
they can help with translation. There’s no such thing as an “official
translator” when it comes to visa matters, however, so a friend or family
member could perform this service just as well, if not better (oh, the
“translations” I’ve seen...). The second service these agencies
perform is that when we recognize the hallmarks of a fraudulent “visa
package” purchased from one, we can make the visa decision instantly, thus
shortening the time each legitimate applicant has to wait for an interview.
Yours in the belief that there’s no such thing as an
- The Consul
The rumors, just this once, happen to be true: I’ve
left, and I’m not coming back. Though a full list would fall well beyond
the word limit I keep exceeding, I’d like to use the last words of my last
column to thank at least:
- the visa applicant who, when asked if the sponsor was
her boyfriend, answered shyly, “not yet.”
- the visa applicants who managed not to storm out in
disgust before I consistently remembered to use “bai” after “ao” in
asking “do you plan to bring your child?”
- the tourist, distraught that all the news from the U.S.
was dated “yesterday.”
- the anti-U.S. protestors who asked to borrow our sound
system for their demonstration.
- Michael and Marion Vogt, for so frequently letting me
exceed my word count, and for offering gin-and-tonics in lieu of payment (I
may have gotten the better of that deal).
- Eric Rubin, Consul General, for recognizing the value
of community dialogue, despite the time it took away from my other duties.
- You, dear readers, you. Be kind to my replacement, and
do stop in and say hello if your travels take you to the U.S. Embassy in
Ruth Bennett, Vice Consul
Have a question about visas, passports, travel to the
United States, services for American citizens, or related issues? Ask the
Consul. Send your e-mail to acschn @state.gov with “ask the consul” in
the subject line. If your question isn’t selected, you can get an answer
by calling the Consulate at 053-252-629, from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Mrs. DoLittle’s Corner
Animals, being unable to voice their sentiments in human
terms, suffer a great deal in the hands of mankind. Because they don’t
think as much as we do, their feelings and senses are more developed.
to eat its own tail?
Even though cows and pigs don’t understand that they’ll
end up at the slaughterhouse, they sense an impending doom and live their lives
in fear from the moment they are taken away from their mothers.
It is a well known fact amongst pig farmers that a week
before slaughter, the pigs fall ill with high fever, and they are then,
systematically, put on antibiotics.
Swiss Alchemist Paracelsus (1493-1541), father of modern
chemistry and founder of homeopathy, wrote in his treatise on bovines and large
mammals that mankind has inherited the sense of family bonding from the large
mammals. Cows have a deep emotional connection with each other and know their
own relatives. If this is true, their life on this planet has become a living
nightmare as they are forced to die together by the droves. Millions of animals
die in shock and terror on a daily basis.
As carnivorous predators, humans have to be considered the
worst kind of all, having organized factories for killing sentient beings.
Furthermore, in the midst of this holocaust, the planet is being destroyed by
over grazing of cattle. The Amazon has lost 5 square meters of forest for each
100 grams of American hamburger brought to market. Thousands of South American
plant and animal species are becoming extinct because of gross world consumerism
based on wrong eating habits.
So I’ve given you something to think about next time you
crave a hamburger. Or perhaps you don’t want to think about it because you
enjoy your meat too much? Well then, what can I say, except, perhaps it’s a
case of the lizard eating its own tail! When you eat your own tail, you tend to
get the rear end view of the situation.
The moral of today’s story is: Whilst we are busy consuming
our own tails, we may not notice we are heading for a ‘black hole’!