Lombard Odier has published its 2024 UAE Expat Study, which examines the requirements, objectives, and encounters of high-net-worth individuals residing in the area.

Major conclusions show that there is a significant and increasing need for advanced wealth management consulting services.

This need is being driven by high-net-worth people’ increasing desire to stay and/or retire in the area, as well as their lack of familiarity with local laws and wealth planning arrangements.

The study by Lombard Odier surveyed 150 HNW expats in the UAE, including executives, employees, entrepreneurs, independent contractors, and retirees, using an online survey and field research in November 2023.

Desirable business location

According to the survey, over 40% of Western expats identify the UAE’s quality of life and investment prospects as their main reasons for relocating. This shows how alluring the country is to these individuals.

The primary reason for relocation for younger HNWs is business-related, such as taking advantage of the robust regulatory or legal environment in the area (29%) or launching a start-up (25%).

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Additionally, a quarter of expats expressed a wish to remain in the region permanently, with that figure rising to 49% among those aged 51 and up.

However, the survey highlights some of the difficulties expats face when transferring wealth across borders, such as difficulties in finding the right wealth manager (48% of participants), conquering language barriers and differences in business culture (37%), particularly among younger expats aged 18-34 (67%), alongside worries about losses due to market fluctuations or geopolitical risks (23%).

This emphasises the need for specialised private banking services that assist foreign nationals in settling in and learning about the customs, regulations, and cultural norms and sensitivities of the area. It also illustrates the need for products and strategies that offer downside protection in markets that are volatile.

Moreover, Expats’ knowledge on tax implications and estate planning for children abroad is limited, with only 27% familiar with these aspects. Private banks can help improve understanding, as 32% value advice on international laws and regulations.

Wealth management skills are in high demand

The UAE expat community is increasingly seeking expert wealth management services, with 53% preferring private banks for estate planning. This preference is particularly high among those in higher wealth brackets and aged 51+.

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investments are also gaining popularity among foreign investors; efforts are underway to raise sustainable allocations from 14% to 20% over the course of the next five years.

The high percentage of foreign buyers of real estate in the United Arab Emirates indicates that sustainable real estate investment may also be appealing; in both cases, a reliable banking partner may offer insightful advice.

Amer Malik, head of Middle East International at Lombard Odier Group, commented: “In the dynamic wealth management landscape of the UAE, the growing HNW expatriate community is increasingly seeking sophisticated and trusted advisers to help strengthen their knowledge across a range of issues, from wealth preservation and international wealth transfer to the taxation and regulatory implications of a relocation to the UAE. Our latest study identifies a marked preference among HNW expats for private banks as advisers of choice.

At Lombard Odier, we are dedicated to providing our clients with customised solutions which integrate their goals and needs over different timespans and generations, enabling them to fully leverage the unique financial landscape and quality of life the UAE offers.

Lombard Odier’s growing presence in the UAE, highlighted by the Abu Dhabi office and the opening of our new office in the dynamic Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), is a testament to our commitment to serving the unique needs of the HNW expatriate community and further cements Lombard Odier’s reputation as a trusted adviser in the Middle East.”