Ten On The Weekend

On Carrying out Due Diligence Amid Taliban’s Takeover: 10 on The Weekend With Melissa Kelley-Hilton

10 On The Weekend is a weekly (-ish) feature in IMI, the concept of which is simple: Each time, we ask the same ten questions of a different IMI Pro, letting readers get to know the interviewee on a more personal and informal level than they might during the ordinary course of business.

Our guest this week is Melissa Kelley-Hilton, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Hilton Global Associates.


How do you spend your weekends?

When you’re passionate about your work, it becomes a part of you, and I rarely take a complete day off. Even on weekends, I find myself immersed in work.

However, I make sure to blend this with relaxation and family time. We live a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico, and the office is just a few short blocks away from the beach. I often take team leadership calls while walking on the beach, enjoying the serene views and soothing sound of the waves.

My wife, Michiko, and I recently completed building a house in Colorado and are currently working on an addition to our home in Naples, which involves frequent communication and meetings with our builders, often on the weekends.

Now that summer is here for our daughters, Kylie and Kenzie, and there’s no more running around for their sporting or other events, we’ve planned some exciting trips together. Juggling work and family commitments can be challenging, but making time for both is incredibly fulfilling.

What are your top three business goals this year?

Expansion: Our goal is to broaden our global footprint by establishing new offices in emerging and strategic locations. This will enable us to better serve our clients by having investigative and research teams on the ground, ensuring more localized and effective support.

Innovation: We are committed to continuing to implement advanced technology to enhance our due diligence processes. Integrating AI and machine learning solutions into our workflows is a priority, as they have already significantly increased efficiency and accuracy in our investigations.

Client Relationships: Diversifying our client portfolio and delivering unparalleled service to clients worldwide remains at the forefront. We focus on strengthening relationships with existing clients while cultivating new partnerships, particularly in the asset management, private equity, and litigation support sectors of our business. As part of this focus, we acquired IDD Group in January, further strengthening our capabilities and presence in key markets.

What’s your biggest business concern right now?

Since founding Hilton Global Associates in 2020, we have experienced massive year-over-year growth, which has been both exhilarating and challenging.

Starting the company just before COVID-19 meant we had to navigate the complexities of staffing up during the pandemic with a fully remote team.

This initial challenge has evolved into ensuring that our staff of nearly 60 now feels part of a cohesive and motivated team, despite the physical distances. To foster this sense of unity, we hold an annual all-hands corporate retreat for the entire organization.

This year, the retreat will be in Naples, Florida, providing an opportunity for team-building and strategic planning.

Which book is on your nightstand right now?

I usually have three books going, depending on the situation—whether I’m reading from an airport lounge, listening to an audiobook during the long drive to Miami for a client meeting, or sitting on the beach with my family.

I try to have a mix of something business-centric, something spiritual, and something humorous or entertaining.

I’m currently reading Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, which our Managing Director, Alejandra Jimenez, recommended.

This book emphasizes the importance of focusing on what truly matters and eliminating non-essential tasks. This philosophy has been transformative lately for managing my busy schedule and prioritizing my professional and personal life.

For humor, I’m enjoying When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris. Sedaris’ sharp wit and humorous reflections on everyday life provide a much-needed break from the intensity of work. His ability to find comedy in the mundane is both entertaining and refreshing, making it perfect for light reading during downtime.

On the spiritual side, I’m reading The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein. This book offers profound insights into trusting the universe and transforming fear into faith. It provides a spiritual framework that helps me stay grounded and centered, especially during challenging times.

How and when did you first get into the investment migration industry?

My journey into the investment migration industry began in 2009, driven by a deep interest in global citizenship and the opportunities it creates for individuals and governments.

With 24 years of experience in the global investigations space, and certifications as a certified international investigator, certified fraud examiner, and licensed private investigator, I’ve dedicated my career to providing comprehensive due diligence services and supporting governments in establishing robust frameworks for investment migration.

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My wife, a director at Fragomen who has been with the firm since 1999, has provided invaluable insights into the intricacies of global mobility.

Having first started dating in 2000, I’ve witnessed firsthand the profound impact that global mobility has on people and the importance of transparent and secure migration processes.

This passion for facilitating global citizenship led me to establish Hilton Global Associates. Our mission has always been to support governments in implementing effective due diligence investigations, ensuring transparency and security throughout the investment migration process.

What was your proudest moment as a service provider?

Two profoundly impactful experiences define my proudest moments as a service provider.

The first was in Dominica, where I had the privilege of witnessing the island’s breathtaking beauty several times before Hurricane Maria’s devastation in 2017. Returning post-disaster, I was moved by the resilience of its people and inspired by the island’s recovery efforts.

Witnessing the lush vegetation restored and new infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, and housing built through initiatives like the CBI program, underscored the transformative power of community resilience and reaffirmed the significance of our work in supporting CBI programs.

My second proudest moment occurred amidst the turmoil of Afghanistan’s tumultuous landscape in 2021. Despite the upheaval of the Taliban’s takeover, our team remained steadfast in completing our due diligence investigations for family applications out of Afghanistan.

Operating under extreme conditions and with the knowledge that other providers in the area were unable to conduct thorough investigations, we upheld the highest standards of professionalism. Our commitment to serving our government clients was unwavering, even in the most challenging and volatile environments.

Which investment migration market development has surprised you the most in the last year?

In the past two years, I’ve been particularly surprised by the increase in American applicants for CBI programs.

Traditionally, the United States has been considered a destination rather than a source country for such programs. However, factors such as political uncertainty, the desire for greater global mobility, and other considerations have led to a growing number of Americans exploring alternative citizenship and residency options.

If you could go ten years back in time, what business decision would you change?

Looking back on the past decade, I realize that if I had my own firm at the time, I would have prioritized investing in technology earlier.

Nevertheless, reflecting on my journey, I find myself in a position where I wouldn’t change a thing. Serving as President of Bishops Services, which was pivotal in establishing the framework for Dominica’s due diligence process in support of its CBI program in the early 1990s, has been invaluable.

Transitioning from this significant role to founding my own firm has been a seamless progression, enabling me to further influence the CBI industry’s landscape while upholding unwavering integrity and excellence.

What investment migration industry personality do you most admire?

If I were to name an individual in the investment migration industry I admire the most; it would be Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica.

His visionary leadership spearheading initiatives like the Housing Revolution Programme, which provides safe, resilient, and affordable homes for Dominican citizens, especially in the aftermath of devastating hurricanes, is truly commendable.

Despite encountering significant challenges, Prime Minister Skerrit has demonstrated unwavering resolve in his mission to rebuild Dominica to be stronger and more resilient while fostering sustainable development and economic growth.

If all goes according to plan, what will you be doing five years from now?

In five years, I envision Hilton Global Associates solidifying its position as a global leader in the investment migration industry, renowned not only for our innovative solutions and exceptional service but also for our unwavering commitment to integrity and excellence in due diligence investigations.

Our reputation for conducting thorough and reliable investigations will continue to set us apart in the industry.

Personally, I see myself continuing to steer the company forward while actively engaging in mentorship and nurturing the next generation of leaders within our organization.

Alongside this, I hope to further expand our reach and impact, forging new partnerships and pioneering initiatives that shape the future of our industry. Through collaborative efforts and continuous innovation, I am confident that we will continue to thrive and make meaningful contributions to the investment migration landscape.

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Ahmad Abbas AdministratorAuthorSubscriberParticipant
Director of Content Services , Investment Migration Insider

Ahmad Abbas is Director of Content Services at Investment Migration Insider and an 8-year veteran of the investment migration industry.

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