In a joint press statement issued yesterday, the Investment Migration Council (IMC) and investment migration firm RIF Trust announced the selection of RIF’s Dubai office as the IMC’s Regional Representative Office (RRO) for the Middle East, taking up a role that was until a few years ago performed by Citizenship Invest, another Dubai-based IM-company.
The IMC’s other RROs are in London, New York, Hong Kong, and the Cayman Islands, hosted on the premises of, respectively, Fragomen, Klasko Law, Henley & Partners, and Latitude.
Characterizing the appointment as an honor, RIF Trust COO David Regueiro said his team looked forward to “continuing to uphold the IMC’s values through maintaining the highest levels of service and best practices for our clients, partners, and governments that we work with.”
He added that the appointment would bolster confidence in his own firm as a reliable and accessible resource, both for clients and industry peers in the region. A key feature of the RRO’s work, in that respect, will be to host IMC-related events throughout the year, the first of which will take place in late March.
Supporting local industry practitioners – and keeping an eye on them
Questioned by IMI as to what practical implications the appointment would have on RIF’s work and responsibilities, Regueiro indicated it would focus on advocacy, education, and member dialogue – essentially the core tasks of the IMC more broadly.
Pointing to the Middle East as “one of the largest and most active markets” in the industry globally, and one that attracts a large number of new IM clients and companies each year, Regueiro said one of the RRO-role’s chief responsibilities would be to “uphold the IMC’s Code of Ethics”.
As to what exactly “upholding the IMC’s Code of Ethics” means in practice, and whether it will include keeping a keen eye on the conduct of regional IMC members, Regueiro suggested the assignment would be of a consultative (rather than enforcing) nature.
“The IMC will rely on us to inform the secretariat on local laws to handle any misconduct that may occur and direct complaints to the formal channels established and tested by the IMC,” he said, assuringly adding that RIF will “not involve ourselves in non-compliance matters; that is the role of the IMC secretariat.”
Promising to lead by example and not to gain undue business advantages from the appointment
Acknowledging that IMC members are often direct competitors, Regueiro emphasized that they are also colleagues, who “ultimately want what’s best for the industry as a whole.” He promised that his firm would “lead by example and act as an experienced and licensed point of contact for practitioners in the Middle East, especially if they have questions or are looking to expand into new markets.”
Engendering trust in the industry and preventing transgressing actors from harming its reputation will be a crucial part of the RRO’s job in the Middle East, a region in which a lack of adherence to IMC standards is not unheard of.
“We want clients to know that if a practitioner is an IMC member they have been carefully vetted and subscribe to a strict Code of Conduct, similar to other professional associations,” said Regueiro.
He underlined that the engagement takes place on an entirely voluntary basis and that RIF will not be paid for the service. Regueiro also intimated that none need worry about any blurring of the lines between the separate roles of private business and industry association.
“There is a clear agreement between us and the IMC, which includes an international non-disclosure agreement regarding business-sensitive information,” he explained. “Moreover, there are clear boundaries and protocols in place ensuring we do not obtain any business advantages over other members and prospective members of the IMC.”
IMC shortlisted three firms before deciding on RIF
In the official press release, Bruno L’ecuyer, the IMC’s long-time Chief Executive, expressed delight at having RIF on board and confidence that “our strong synergies will allow us to reach our objectives in improving global standards, promoting professional development and high ethical standards among our members, as well as bridging the gap between academics, government, and professionals operating in investment migration in this innovative and fast-paced region.”
Questioned by IMI as to why the IMC had selected RIF in particular from a regional pool of many qualified firms, L’ecuyer indicated the choice was a result of extensive deliberations and that RIF’s scale, repute, and resources had been decisive factors.
“We have been carefully considering a return to the region for two years now and have had discussions with various operators, narrowing it down to three shortlisted potential partners based on a number of criteria such as business setup, operational considerations, reputation, and ability to dedicate the time and resources to contribute to the growth and visibility of the IMC in the wider region,” L’ecuyer clarified.
“We believe that RIF Trust, with their ten years in the industry, more than 50 employees in Dubai, and local licenses in all five of the Caribbean islands with IM jurisdictions was the most suitable one.”
Saying he aimed to “develop further into the region” and increase the number of MENA-region IM professionals who become IMC members, L’ecuyer alluded to having a local partner to keep an eye on promoters as indispensable.
“Scrutiny of programs – but also of those involved in marketing and selling programs – is increasing and the only feasible solution to continued operation is alignment with a basic set of standards which the IMC has in place already such as our code of Ethics, anti-bribery code, and soon to come marketing guidelines.”
Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.