How offshore advisers use regulatory wording to deceive you!

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the adverb “Fully” as “ Completely or Entirely, to the Fullest Extent’’ Expat advisers and offshore advice firms often use the word “fully” to reinforce their position or point, but do they mean this and what value does the word have?


Let’s start with my personal favourite quotes that are regularly seen on offshore adviser websites.

1. “Fully UK Qualified” or “SEC qualified”. – Take a look at UK or US regulated IFA or Broker websites and see how the advisers are described. The truth is that qualified is not the same as “registered” or “regulated”.

On a regulated website, there will be a registration number and no unambiguity about the address. Normally, there will be some verifiable title with an institute and some information about the adviser. The word “Fully’’ rarely appears, no matter how many qualifications the adviser has. Even the minimum qualifications in these territories are considerably higher than the offshore advisers that claim to be “Fully UK Qualified”.

In practice, offshore advisers (with a few exceptions) who were qualified in the UK in the past, passed a basic certificate that is circa 30% of the minimum level of the current requirements in the UK. So, ironically, the very same people saying “Fully UK Qualified” are not at all, certainly not enough to be allowed to practice in the UK, and are also not regulated there and would no get a certificate to practice. Yet the public could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

2. “Fully Qualified to International Standards” – This is commonly the term used by advisers with the CII( Award) or FAIQ. This certificate is a basic introduction to finance that provides 15 credits towards qualification. To put this into perspective, professional chartered level qualification requires a number of diploma and advanced level exams and a total of 290 credits.

The “Fully Qualified to International Standards’’ adviser is often only 5% towards a professional recognised level of qualification. How “Fully” is that?

Approval and Certification

Something is either approved, certified or it isn’t. The use of “Fully” in these cases is mis-leading, redundant and there should be alarms ringing when used.
The UK tax office (HMRC), for example, do not approve QROPS- offshore pensions. There is no approval process and this is clearly stated on HMRC’s website. However, not only do we see “HMRC Approved QROPS” appearing on websites, we see “ Fully Approved “ used too. Thus reinforcing the lie even further!

As for certification, we often see reference to “Fully Certified” products, referring to the FCA (UK regulator) . I am not aware of a badge of certification issued by the FCA other than “regulated” , the FCA is more focused on the quality of the advice and the process by which advisers select the products and the reasons for their selection.

The Myth

Professional services websites, whether they be for accountants, lawyers and financial advisers do not misuse the word “Fully”, in fact they rarely use it; the use of it should be a red flag to the public.

There is nothing emptier than a promise backed up with the word fully, when I reality there is nothing to back it up.


Spare a few minutes to watch this video about the issues of cross-border regulation:

The views expressed in this article are not to be construed as personal advice. You should contact a qualified and ideally regulated adviser in order to obtain up to date personal advice with regard to your own personal circumstances. If you do not then you are acting under your own authority and deemed “execution only”. The author does not except any liability for people acting without personalised advice, who base a decision on views expressed in this generic article. Where this article is dated then it is based on legislation as of the date. Legislation changes but articles are rarely updated, although sometimes a new article is written; so, please check for later articles or changes in legislation on official government websites, as this article should not be relied on in isolation.

About the Author

James Pearcy-Caldwell

I have lived in various countries, but always remained firmly attached to the good old UK. My only goal is to take the experience and insider knowledge that I have, and be transparent with people so they understand the impact of their decisions.

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