Transcription of Episode
Lauren Cohen 0:01
Good morning, everybody. And welcome to Investing Across Borders the podcast where we teach you how to invest, live, work and play across borders. I’m your host, Lauren Cohen here in South Florida, originally from Toronto, Canada, and I am an international legal and real estate expert. I’m here today with my guest, Anne Liebgott. Anne was originally born in Vancouver on the other side of Canada, but she now lives in Switzerland. She has three homes in Europe, and she has literally been all over the world. She’s a global Nomad, and she helps people achieve more wealth by creating financing structures mainly for Americans, but also for Canadians that have wealth in Switzerland. Is that correct Anne?
Anne Liebgott 0:48
Lauren Cohen 0:49
Okay, great. Well, welcome to the show. And thanks for taking some time. I know the first time we were supposed to be scheduled, unfortunately, I got hit with a migraine. But um, tell us about you and and how things are over there on the other side of the world and how things are going and what exactly you do.
Anne Liebgott 1:06
Okay, thanks for having me. Um, like you mentioned, I was born in Canada, I grew up in Vancouver in Toronto, as a teenager, moved down to the United States, lived outside of Chicago for three and a half years, came over to Switzerland and decided to stay. Decided not to go back to the US, was an easy decision, because my parents are both originally from Denmark. And we always had a very European lifestyle at home. We spent all of our summer vacations in Europe. And so for me, it was natural to stay and live abroad. And Switzerland is just an absolute perfect destination. It’s in the middle of Europe. We have Germany, France, Italy, right as our neighbors, we have Spain is just a stone’s throw, basically. And it’s just a great, great place to be actually. Especially now, when we have what I like to call the pandamania. Switzerland has been recognized as the world’s most resilient country to be able to handle the aftermath especially the aftermath of the Coronavirus. So we feel pretty lucky.
Lauren Cohen 2:20
Yeah, I would say so. I mean, certainly living in America, I can’t say the same. And my family’s all in Canada and my brother and sister in law and the kids just went through Coronavirus. They’ll have the word positive, then God they were fine. But it’s just not very fun. And here in the US, we’re just desperately waiting to get vaccinated if that’s available. And it’s just been a real, real mess. So what brought you into the world of wealth? I assume it was just natural because you have been all over the world, right?
Anne Liebgott 2:53
Well, what brought me specifically into the world of wealth, as far as the Swiss directory, AWS, Switzerland is concerned, which I founded about six years ago, I was having a lot of conversations with Americans who were interested in holding a portion of their assets outside of the US. And Switzerland, being the global leader for cross border wealth management was a natural destination to hold a portion of one’s assets. And the problem was was how to get started in Switzerland? Like what banks to go to what wealth managers to use, how to get started? Should it be a independent wealth manager? Should it be a bank, affiliate, and so on and so forth. So I actually decided to write a book on this subject, because I’ve written books before. And as I was writing the outline of the book, I thought, Hey, come on, in this day and age, you don’t write a book, you put a thought you make an online platform, you know, you put something online so people can access it 24/7, you can adjust it to all, you know, news and new companies and new banks and new legal and compliance developments and so on. And so the platform AWS, was born.
Lauren Cohen 4:10
Cool. So what types of companies are featured in this directory?
Anne Liebgott 4:15
Well, the core of the directory are actually the Swiss SEC registered investment advisors that got registered with the SEC, particularly to serve us clients without restrictions. And of course, there’s some of them. They also have the proper licensing and exceptions in Canada so they can also serve you as clients as well. Now, these sec registered investment advisors, they come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are, you know, large banks in Switzerland that have their US affiliate, some are larger, independent wealth managers. Others are smaller boutique style companies, and all the way down to the one man show.
Lauren Cohen 4:57
Wow, and how did you actually get them to participate in the directory? Like what steps did you take in order to get them to participate? I guess they wanted exposure. And that’s how you connected with them. Right?
Anne Liebgott 5:11
Yeah. But to be perfectly honest, when I launched the platform, like I said, going back six years ago, I didn’t ask anybody anything, it was actually kind of like a secret project, it was actually intended to be kind of like a hobby thing on the side. So I just put them all on the ones that were there at that time, there was like, less than 30. Now there are around 50 of them. And I made the platform, put it online, and the Wall Street Journal picked up on it right away. And when the Wall Street Journal picked up on it right away, then so did a lot of others. And so this kind of like baby project turned into a teenager overnight.
Lauren Cohen 5:49
Anne Liebgott 5:50
Yeah, and then other things were added, you know, like trust advisors, US tax advisers, citizenship and residency planning, and other kind of like Wealth Management related subjects. They were added then to the platform. And then a couple years down the road, there was also a spin off, which is called Americans welcome dash x paths, it’s actually for expats that are living in working in Switzerland.
Lauren Cohen 6:16
I see only in Switzerland, nowhere else at the moment.
Anne Liebgott 6:20
Well, since Switzerland is a hub, in the financial world, the services that are available in Switzerland are available to Americans basically anywhere, they are.
Lauren Cohen 6:31
Nice, that’s a good thing. Okay. And, and so how is it actually? How does it actually work? Like if I wanted to access it? What would my reason for using it be? And what would my result be?
Anne Liebgott 6:45
Okay, your reason for using it is, let’s just say you want to do your homework, and you want to see who’s there, who’s available, what’s the size of the company, you know, what’s their managing style, and so on, and so forth. So if you take a look at the FCC registrations of these companies, and they’re a dv Part Two brochure, they describe all these points, they describe strategies, type of clients, fees, etc, etc. So you can log on to the platform, it’s at Americanswelcome.swiss, you can visit, take a look at the listings of the Swiss SEC registered investment advisors, you can take a look at their background, and so when you can visit their websites, etc, and then you can just get in touch with them directly.
Lauren Cohen 7:31
Got it. So the reality to me, it sounds kind of like a Dun and Bradstreet type of thing is that about right, like to qualify this particular segment, sort of, and this way, it becomes like a credibility factor?
Anne Liebgott 7:46
I don’t qualify, I just list them. And it’s basically it’s like you said, it builds a bridge between us clients, Canadian clients, that are interested in diversifying their investment portfolios by adding, you know, jurisdictional diversification holding assets in Switzerland, international investment strategies, etc, etc. And the SEC, you know, registered investment advisors that provide those services to these clients. So it’s really, it’s easy, it’s an easy concept, you just go to the platform, you take a look at who you want to look at, if you’re interested, you get in contact with them directly. There’s no filters, I don’t collect email addresses or anything like that. It’s really just a direct, you know, a direct thing. What I do though, if somebody would like, I’m happy to make personal introductions. And often that happens with, for example, if you have a US advisor, a US wealth advisor, financial advisor, and they’re not that well versed in international diversification, they don’t really know that much about what does it mean to hold a portion of your assets in Switzerland, how to go about it, how to do it, and I get contacted by them actually quite a lot, saying, Oh, I didn’t even know that this was possible. I didn’t even know one could do that. Well, how do I get started? How do I how do I, you know, advise my clients on that this is a possibility. And I’m happy then to make introductions, if you know if they if they like that.
Lauren Cohen 9:10
Yeah, sounds like something really worthwhile. And how is it monetized?
Anne Liebgott 9:17
Monetized? Well, because the companies that are listed on the platform, they pay a one off flat fee like an advertisement fee. Publication, basically, it’s a directory so I don’t have any commission agreements. I don’t have any sponsors. Everything is self financed. I don’t you know, I’m not obliged to show any preference for any other company or anything like that, and I don’t, I’m completely neutral.
Lauren Cohen 9:46
That’s just like Switzerland is supposed to be, you could say that. What’s one of the tips that you would give to people that are thinking about investing in other countries or creating a portfolio or a portion of their portfolio outside of their home country?
Anne Liebgott 10:03
Well, first of all, you should do your homework. I mean, you have to feel comfortable with what you’re doing. And you should take a look at more than one, you know, there’s several there take a look, have, you have to make a personal proposal without any obligation, which they’re happy to do, and then make a decision. I think, though, if you’re investing abroad, it should be, let’s say a little bit more of a long term decision, is that something that you just go in, do some trading and go out? Again, you don’t need to do that when holding assets in Switzerland. If you’re holding assets in Switzerland, a lot of times it has to do with wealth preservation, with having a nest egg outside of the US or Canadian banking system, and so on. So it’s not really all that terribly exciting. But of course, if you’re more growth oriented and more aggressive, you can have a strategy that is, you know, according to your risk profile, of course.
Lauren Cohen 10:58
Well your risk profile is a big deal. Tell me like one example of a client challenge, that could have been circumvented, had they had the right guidance?
Anne Liebgott 11:13
Okay, um, I think for a US advisor, they are usually rather US centric. And bias, yeah, and they have a home bias. And it’s sometimes a little bit difficult for them to grasp the idea that it’s okay to hold assets abroad, that it’s okay to have an account in Switzerland and have some internationally diversified strategy there, that you don’t have to think you’re doing something that’s not correct, or unpatriotic, or something like that. That’s not true. So I think the best advice is just be open minded. Take a look at it. Ask all the questions that you would have ever, I even suggest that you that they involve their advisor they have at home, so that advisor at home is also aware of what you want to do and what the investments are. That way, you know that it’s all you know, it’s it’s all according to how you want to have it
Lauren Cohen 12:21
Right, and also all transparent so that everybody, all of the parties know what’s going on with all the other parties, it makes it easier. I think if everybody kind of works together, how easy is it to get established in Switzerland? If you want to do this, for example, if you want to invest in a part, a portion of your portfolio,
Anne Liebgott 12:41
It’s very easy. You don’t have to come towards them to do it, you can do it from the comfort of your home, the Swiss SEC, registered investment advisor of choice will monitor the whole process of opening up the bank account at a Swiss bank. And once that’s in place, once that account opening process is done, of course, it has to do with knowing your client has anti money laundering, right, so on. And once that process is done the clot the account is there, it is invested in the strategy that you’ve chosen with your wealth manager, and it’s done. I think the whole process takes about two months.
Lauren Cohen 13:18
Not bad. Not bad. So and how many SEC registered advisors are in Switzerland?
Anne Liebgott 13:28
At the moment, there’s around 50.
Lauren Cohen 13:30
So you have all of them on your portal?
Anne Liebgott 13:33
Yes. And at the moment is around 50. And I know personally of five or six that want to get registered with the SEC this year.
Lauren Cohen 13:43
Um, is it a hard process to get registered?
Anne Liebgott 13:47
No, actually, it’s not. The registration can also can be done online, you need to have a course the paperwork that’s required, you know, like your code of ethics, your ATV Part Two brochure and things like that, that you have to put together while you do it. there as well, you you submit your registration, and the SEC will approve it within the first I think two maybe even three months ago sometimes. And then you’re actually ready for business.
Lauren Cohen 14:13
Wow. It’s pretty interesting like that. I’m sure you’ve heard about people using their their IRA money, their Roth IRA money to invest in real estate. But here’s another avenue as well. Its always a matter of education, you know.
Anne Liebgott 14:32
If you wanted to use your IRA you can. Funny thing is there are I think two Swiss SEC registered investment advisors that are specialized actually in working with IRAs.
Lauren Cohen 14:42
Interesting. So you know, I like you said, it’s all about well, I didn’t know about that. I mean, it’s like my signature program is how to immigrate to real estate. And a lot of lawyers say, Well, you can’t do that. They tell their clients you can’t use real estate to immigrate. Well, you can, but not if you’re buying single family homes, you have to go work with somebody that knows the model that can get the visa, that will get you the result that you want.
Anne Liebgott 15:11
So I think now, with the pandemic going on, there has been a rise in people in the US who are considering a second residency or a second citizenship, I heard a figure that the inquiries are up 235% over last year, and so on, and so forth. So I think maybe this pendemic was also a bit of a wake up call for say, don’t necessarily have to be completely US centric, that you can, you know, cross borders, like you say, other homes, and have other investments and have another focus, and not just for yourself, but also for the next generation.
Lauren Cohen 15:54
Right, you have to be forward thinking. And I think that one of the things that becomes very apparent when working with high net-worth individuals, you know, you’re working, kind of indirectly, I’m working generally directly is money. The key with money when money buys is options. Yeah, it’s options. And that’s why having a second or third potential location, like portugal is a very popular destination. Now they have the golden visa, it’s a big deal. And it’s very safe. And they’ve also handled COVID. Very well, better than the US. So Americans are frustrated. Canadians too. And they want options. And so I think that’s what this brings to the table is the ability to get access to those options. Now, do you often work with people that are, I’m assuming not as often but work with people that are inbound to or like coming out of Europe, or here for hire of people that are coming out of Europe into the US or Canada? or looking to expand their portfolio out outside of Europe?
Anne Liebgott 17:02
Yes, well, there’s a section on the platform, it’s called becoming a US person. Because when you become a US person, of course, then you’re subject to US tax regime. And if you have international holdings, already in place, of course, and you go to the states and you haven’t prepared things properly, you can end up with honorius tax situation, you like fake taxes and things like that, which can be avoided if you plan properly in advance. So the there are Swiss SEC registered investment advisors as well, that are also specialized in doing exactly that. So for people that are inbound to the US, it just makes sense to take a good look at their portfolios in advance before becoming a US person.
Lauren Cohen 17:51
It’s interesting, because I’m hoping to work with a Swiss tech company that’s doing exactly that. They’re inbound to the US, not just investing but also expanding their business. And so they have to look at all of the, you know, do they need an immigration visa? What are the legal ramifications? What type of entity do they need? How do they structure that? What’s the best way to ensure that they don’t end up being a US person when they’re here? If that’s their role, and you need asset protection guidance, you need cross border tax guidance. So all of these pieces are see you smiling, because you’re you’re like, yeah, that’s right. And all of these pieces, you know, I originally my my business was focused on inbound to the US and Canada because I’m licensed in both. But through this pandemic, I now have clients that are investing in Spain, in Honduras, in Italy, in Mexico, many, many, many are investing in Mexico seems to be a very popular destination, the whole Cabo area, and all of that the, the Anglo parts of Mexico, lots of people investing in various parts of South America. And so so I shifted and started developing a prat a practice or a model focused on outbound from North America. What is or I guess Mexico is North America, outbound from Canada and the US, mainly outbound from the US, and how does that look? And what kind of structure do you need? Because you still need that structure. And I think that for people that are investing or creating or developing a portion of their portfolio in Switzerland, they should probably have the guidance of an asset protection lawyer over here in the US as well, before they do so to make sure that they are not compromising their assets here, not just with a financial advisor, but also there’s you know, there’s a difference.
Anne Liebgott 19:48
Right, especially in the United States, where so many people have trusts, you know.
Lauren Cohen 19:56
Anne Liebgott 19:57
In Switzerland, there is no trust law. There’s no such thing as a Swiss trust, except that the Swiss government has now accepted that we are going to have a Swiss trust law. And they’re working on the laws on the paragraphs as we speak, basically. And next year, there will be a Swiss trust possibility putting it at the same like playing level as other countries that do have a trust law. Interesting.
Lauren Cohen 20:23
Well, things are changing, that’s for sure. That’s for sure. And how do people reach you to find out more about investing in Switzerland and creating that portfolio and accessing your directory, please?
Anne Liebgott 20:35
Well, the easiest way is just to visit the platforms and like I said, the address is Americanswelcome.swiss
Lauren Cohen 21:50
Anne, it’s really a pleasure to have you I’m very glad we finally had a chance to do this. And I think we have a lot to explore together. And I really do appreciate your time and joining us today. The show will be live soon. It will be on YouTube right away. I will of course tag you and we will have an opportunity to develop something together. Thank you so much for your time. I really, really appreciate it. This is Lauren Cohen, signing off from Investing Across Borders, where we teach you how to invest live, work and play across borders, just like Anne Liebgott has managed to do from Canada to the US over to Europe, and making an impact all over the world. Thank you so much for your time. Lauren Cohen, international legal and real estate expert, looking forward to working with you to help you create a strategy to invest across borders.