A word of advice for expats from BNP Paribas Fortis

BNP blog post

As a key sponsor of the British Chamber’s Expat Financial Affairs exhibition in October, two senior members of BNP Paribas Fortis have been discussing on Radio X about their involvement in the event: Salvatore Orlando, Head of Expatriates and Philipp Bollen, Director of Estate Planning. You can listen to the full interview with Radio X here

Salvatore, as Head of Expatriates, why do you consider that the Expat market is so important for BNP Paribas Fortis?

The Expat market is crucial to us because we are at the heart of Europe and this is even more important in International cities like Brussels. Besides, an expat is someone who by definition moves and changes country, BNP Paribas Fortis is the first bank in Belgium and we are part of the BNP Paribas group, the most international bank in Europe active in more than 80 countries worldwide. So it makes sense to work so closely with expats.

What was the interest behind the involvement that you have in Expat financial affairs?

It started as an idea about 3 years ago, as we really wanted to work and help expats in Belgium particularly to have access to all the information and needs required to live in Belgium.

We decided to set up Expat Financial Affairs as a whole day event that would equip expats with all the financial info needed.

Is there a specific profile that would attend this event or is it targeted to a broader audience?

It’s definitely a broad range specifically addressed to young professionals, recent graduates, professionals, managers, but also retired expats. It’s quite an interesting event because you have access to all sorts of info according to your specific age and needs in life. For instance, a retired person can get help on what is the best way to take advantage from a pension or pension plans, but this could also be interesting for a young person.

Let me give you an example. In the last 10 years, I have changed countries a number of times for professional and academic reasons, but I need to know which one of them will pay my pensions. At this event, I could have access to the best information, be guided by the best experts in the field, and choose as I may the different workshops which I am more interested in attending.

 

Philipp Bollen, director of Estate Planning at BNP, will be holding a session on all the different forms of cohabitation in Belgium and the impacts it has on inheritance law and inheritance taxes. Can you tell us what Estate planning is in a nutshell?

We are helping our clients manage and reorganise their assets with respect to all tax issues and legal issues. For instance, when one of our clients is going to marry, we can provide him/her with information on which marriage contract will be the most suitable regarding the specific situation in which they are in. At times, a registered partnership can be better than a marriage.

Estate planning is not focused only on Real Estate, but on everything that you own, from pension scheme to investments portfolio abroad. I believe that every expat should check on their personal situation when they arrive in Belgium. A person who married in the UK or Italy might think that they are managing and planning their finances according to UK or Italian law but then find that Belgian inheritance taxes do apply for example. In that case, we will analyse the situation and eventually reorganise the situation.

There has been some recent changes in this area, particularly in succession laws, which enables you to choose which country will be applicable. In August 2015, you will have more options to determine which laws will be applicable in a specific country, but you will still need to hold a link with the country. For example, as a Belgian, I can’t apply Russian law, but if I moved to Russia, I could apply Belgian law in my will

When should people really be thinking about this? Why is it important to act upon this?

I think that as soon as you have found your partner, you have to reconsider your situation and assess which option one is the best. It depends on whether you want to protect your partner or children. In function of that we would be able to look at what would be the ideal marriage system. I sometimes think that we do more marriage counselling than Estate planning! We always have to deal with this type of advice, on whether to choose marriage, divorce, civil partnership, or cohabitation, and depending on that, the financial consequences that you might get from each option.

If you would like to get personalised expert advice on a variety of areas relevant to your big life decisions as an expat in Belgium, please visit our Expat Financial Affairs website and register to join us on the 3rd of October at Vlerick Business School, Brussels. Sign up already now, and we will keep you updated on the event programme as it gets published and help you prepare for your visit in the best way possible.

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