I love this industry. Every month we get a new update, a new RCBI program, or a new challenge – investment migration knows how to keep it fresh.
Each year, more governments join the fray; we recently saw Moldova and Montenegro launch (admittedly short-lived) CIPs, and I can’t wait to see which country launches a new one this year. By some measures, North Macedonia already has.
As an investment migration professional, it is tempting to try to hoard and offer all of the available programs in the world, from Caribbean CIPs to European golden visas, North American startup programs to UHNWI programs “down under”.
Almost every nation in the world has some kind of investment migration program, and to offer them all to every single market may seem tempting. But doing so can actually condemn your firm to failure.
The paradox of choice is an interesting concept; the more options you have, the more difficult it is to make a decision. It leads to a phenomenon called “analysis paralysis”, where decisions stall in the face of uncertainty. And this can wreak havoc on your sales funnel.
One way to prevent analysis paralysis is to simply narrow the selection of programs your firm offers by identifying your niche market and tailoring your program list accordingly. To do that efficiently, however, you must also create an internal structure that matches your vision. I’ll illustrate with a few examples:
Citizenship by investment specialists
Almost every broad-spectrum investment migration advisory offers the Caribbean, Vanuatu, and Turkey programs. They are simple, desirable, quick, and profitable for the consultant. You won’t have to cradle a client for more than six months before you get your big payday and move on.
CIPs are well-suited to firms that aim for high-volume/low-margin client groups. Processing is not so complex that you need a specialized team of industry veterans to handle cases.
But the very simplicity of CIP-processing is a double-edged sword because it makes for low barriers to entry. There’s very little stopping new firms (or, indeed, your former employees) from competing with you for the same clients. Anybody who has practiced investment migration in Dubai knows exactly what I refer to.
If you wish to focus on CIPs, you first need to identify a suitable market. That’s not so hard; HNWIs with weak passports are a dime-a-dozen in Iraq, Egypt, China, Russia, and Vietnam, to mention but a few salient examples.
The hard part, however, is dealing with the increasing competition. Price wars, brand wars, bad apples, and new market entrants are just some of the challenges you have to face. To survive as a CIP-focused business, you need to find your competitive edge and capitalize on it at opportune moments. Internally, your organization should be efficiently structured (low overhead to protect margins) and able to handle large case loads.
Golden visa specialists
At least in applicant source countries, IM firms tend to offer golden visa programs as a supplement to – rather than as an alternative to – citizenship programs. Firms that offer golden visa programs exclusively need to get their setup right to find overwhelming success, as these programs require greater attention, highly trained staff, as well as constant monitoring and evaluation.
Golden visas are a good source of income principally because of the commission paid on real estate. That there is great demand for golden visas is incontrovertible.
The problem is finding suitable clients, as you can’t offer Portugal’s golden visa and Dominica’s CIP to a client while considering them two slices of the same pie; they are completely different options that address distinct pain points.
Golden visas are great for clients that wish to relocate, or those more focused on downstream benefits like enhanced educational choice for their children or for retirement in a country with higher standards of living.
RCBI firms know golden visas are more complex in terms of processing and may require clients to travel to the destination country. Physical visits necessitate reliable local representatives; the last thing you want is a client that ends up window-shopping and dropping off your radar once in-country.
It is a rare client, moreover, who buys property without seeing it first. When you consider that in golden visa jurisdictions (unlike in their CIP counterparts) virtually any type of real estate is eligible, chances are good you’ll run into the analysis paralysis trap again.
To overcome these obstacles, you need a strong presence in the destination country. You also need to provide the best real estate options available at the best price. And while the competition is there, you’ll rarely find an IM firm in a source country specialized only in golden visas, so creating a robust framework may allow you to become a household name when it comes to EU programs, and differentiate yourself from the competition. That, in turn, enables you to charge higher fees and get higher commissions.
Active investment programs
Anyone who has worked on entrepreneur migration programs will tell you that they are a handful, to say the least. Business plans, fluid document checklists, immigration officer discretion, government economic focus; all come into play.
I’m talking, here, about programs like Canada’s PNP, Australia’s BIIP, the US E2, and the UK’s Innovation Visa. These are complex solutions.
The processing time for an entrepreneur visa may take anywhere from three months to two years, depending on the program. That is a lot of time and a lot of expense for one client. RCBI firms do not usually offer these types of programs due to their complexity and low scalability. But this reluctance can actually be a good thing.
As RCBI firms steer clear from these programs, it opens a gap that you can take advantage of, but you need to be ready and able to do so competently. You need to go in-depth here. Because you cannot do high case volumes, you must offer multiple downstream services to the same clients. The service relationships shouldn’t stop at immigration; it should move on to company formation, tax planning, university admissions, etc.
This also allows you to build your brand among entrepreneurs or even corporations looking to set up shop abroad. Companies that take on these types of cases are in it for the long haul. You need a strong, well-trained team adept in the world of business management, as you will need to customize each application depending on the program and the client’s background. Some clients may be willing to put in large sums of money, others may bring in much-desired expertise, while those with less to offer may go for higher job creation; all in a bid to get approval.
You’ll also need a strong partner or office in the destination country to set up shop on behalf of the client. Immigration officer discretion means the government will “assess” the application and business on its own, often qualitative terms. There isn’t necessarily a checklist of neatly defined requirements to tick off to ensure approval. This is detail-oriented, risky work. But that also means that fewer people can do it and, by extension, less competition for those who can.
This may seem like a lot of hassle for a small profit, but the beauty of entrepreneur migration is in its longevity. If you structure your firm as a one-stop-shop, offering business brokerage, business consulting, tax advisory, networking services, corporate legal representation, and even venture capitalism, you can continue to profit off a single client for years to come.
You’ll also create a robust network of businesses that can open more opportunities to you to profit from while cementing your place as an adept provider in the region. You can also target clients not interested in CIPs or golden visas, a whole new market to yourself, or even go beyond that to target corporations looking to expand into the world’s greatest markets. It is hard work, but nothing worth having ever came easy.
Finding yourself amidst the chaos
Locating and defining your niche market and, subsequently, your offerings is not something intuitive but requires forethought and consideration. You need to study the markets you are targeting, decide on which programs to offer, structure your organization to match those programs, create a service framework that aligns with your goals, and distinguish yourself through well-planned marketing.
Doing all that optimizes your sales funnel, cuts your costs, increases your profit, and cements your brand in the marketplace.