A goal without a plan is just a wish. ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
- Name: Jonathan Ralph
- Nationality: British
- Lives in: Sineu
- Works in: Sineu, over Zoom, and wherever my clients need me
- Profession: Financial Planner
- Signature phrase: “Right money, right place, right time.”
Who Is Jonathan Ralph? #
May I Introduce….
Jonathan Ralph is a British national living in Sineu. One of the few fully qualified financial planners serving the expat community in Spain, Jonathan came to Mallorca at the start of 2017 in search of a more grounded lifestyle built around cultural diversity, great weather, and a proximity to nature.
After an early career spent in high-stress environments in London, Beijing and Paris, Jonathan affirms that moving to Mallorca was one of the best decisions he’s ever taken.
A Purposeful Life #
How do you relate your work to your life?
I’m glad you are asking me this question rather than my partner, as she would probably tell you that my work is my life! I’ve always been fascinated by the power of money, and how working smart is often more effective than working hard. I’m also the type of person that you’ll find reading CNBC on a Friday night, so I suppose it was only natural that I would end up dedicating myself to building wealth for my clients through investment portfolios. I’m in a hugely privileged position in that I truly love what I do.
What does financial planning have to do with discovering the world as an expat living on Mallorca?
I’ve been an expat for the best part of a decade now, working in China, France and Spain. Being able to experience other cultures, languages and traditions is one of the many sources of joy in my life. I have learnt so much from these wonderful places, and one of those lessons is that it pays to be prepared. As expats, we have certain financial considerations, responsibilities, and opportunities that most of us are not even aware of.
An important part of my job is guiding my clients through this and ensuring they are set up for financial success in their life overseas. Internationally mobile people require internationally mobile financial plans – and I have plenty of first-hand experience in this regard.
Your Professional Life #
I see you have diverse interests, excellent formal education and jobs. How did your working in the insurance and financial services industries unfold?
That’s lovely of you to mention, thank you. I suppose we should start at the University of Bath, where I earned my degree. I can still remember the tingling in the pit of my stomach when they told me I would be graduating with a First – the highest classification in the UK and one of the proudest moments of my adult life (which sounds sad, I know!) From there I moved into international business before taking my financial planning exams through the Chartered Insurance Institute in the UK.
I’m now a fully qualified UK and European financial adviser, with the Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning and further qualifications in Securities Advice and Discretionary Investment Management. Unfortunately – although some might argue fortunately for me – there are not too many qualified advisers practising in the expat marketplace, so it can be a lonely place!
Starting a Meaningful Life #
What is your most important advice for a meaningful life?
I’m far from an authority on the subject – after all, I’m just a money manager – but I believe it starts with your definition of meaning, and where you find it. Personally, I find my meaning in the “a-ha” moment of a client meeting, when the penny drops and he/she truly understands what is possible when we allow our money to work for us. After all, we spend so much of our time trying to reach our physical, professional and intellectual potential, would it not be rational to dedicate some time to ensuring our money fulfils its potential too? There is no greater feeling of possibility than when you find a financial plan that not only matches your personality and beliefs, but that also shows you the path to achieving your life’s ambitions.
It’s not a complicated purpose to have, but I feel very lucky to have that clarity on what brings me meaning in my life. It took a long time, and a lot of trial and error to get here. The key to discovering it was patience, the willingness to try new things, and the good fortune to be surrounded by people that I respect and admire.
What was your unplanned event?
As a financial planner, I’m actually proud of my lack of spontaneity – there is a plan for everything! That said, life has a funny way of throwing you some curveballs every now and again. Whilst living in Paris with my now-fiancée, some personal circumstances arose that meant I would have to drop everything and move back home to my parents in Cheshire, in the North-West of England. She was at university at the time, so this meant living apart for a while. It was a difficult period, but it gave us the space to define what we truly wanted out of life – and that led us down the path to settling down here in Mallorca, one of the most wonderful places in the world. Being forced to take a step back allowed us to walk down our current path, and I’m grateful for that.
Perceptions of the Financial Services Industry and Needs of Clients #
How do you see servicing clients? Are you limited to the island or do you cover other jurisdictions?
Whilst I specialize in the expat market, I’m not limited to it. The majority of my clients are UK expats who have moved to Spain, but I also deal with Americans, Europeans, South Africans, Australians… one of the joys of the expat lifestyle is meeting people from all walks of life!
I even work with the local Spanish market – mostly helping them to find tax-efficient offshore investment solutions in places such as Dublin and Luxembourg – as the Spanish financial planning sector remains highly underdeveloped. One of the wonderful aspects of my job is the variety of people that I work with on a daily basis.
If the client is based on Mallorca, then it’s great to be able to grab a café con leche together to talk through their finances. Since Covid reared its ugly head, however, most of my business has been done over Zoom. This not only means that I am not limited to the island, but also that my clients can take my service with them, wherever they go in the world. These days, I can (and do) have client meetings in any number of weird and wonderful places all around the world… all from the comfort of my office in Sineu.
I’m also fortunate enough to speak fluent Spanish and French, and that makes me one of the very few UK financial advisers in the world that can service international clients in their own language. I’m still not quite sure what the Mandarin is for “tax compliant investment vehicle”, however, so there’s some room to grow there!
What is the one need of clients that is most overlooked by financial advisors? What is the one need for an advisor that is most overlooked by clients?
The world of expat financial advice has built a bit of an unsavoury reputation for itself over the past few decades, with much of this being fully deserved. This was largely down to unqualified advisers operating away from tightly regulated jurisdictions, such as the UK, and taking advantage of expatriate clients in an environment that simply did not police them. This is changing, slowly, but many international financial advisers still do not hold the requisite qualifications to advise responsibly – leaving the profession open to exploitation by salesmen that do not hold the client’s best interests at heart. A large part of my personal mission is to be the exception to this.
Financial advice is highly personal, and each of us have our own blind spots. Rather than suggesting a common need that can be overlooked by an adviser, I would prefer to recommend ensuring that your adviser has the necessary qualifications and experience to cover all the bases well. This means ensuring that they are Level 4 qualified (in the case of UK advisers) or have reached a universally accepted standard of excellence such as the CFP. Most advisers will offer a free financial review – so if in doubt, you can always get a second opinion.
How do client's best decide where to put their hard earned money?
On the client side of the equation, I feel that the sector’s reputation has led to a lack of trust, and therefore a reluctance to seek advice in many cases. This is unfortunate and can discourage many from seeking advice precisely when they need it most. Common examples include clients that have not structured their assets in a tax-efficient manner for life in Spain, clients that receive a large inheritance only to see it waste away to inflation in a bank account, or clients that are looking to retire in the EU but do not understand how best to access their pension benefits. One of my goals is to encourage all expats on Mallorca to understand what good financial advice entails, and to see the benefits for themselves.
Jonathan’s Other Projects and Initiatives #
What motivates you and how can our readers connect personally with you?
Away from the office, one of my passions is traveling. Or, rather, it was before the lockdowns started! I’m very much looking forward to getting back out there and seeing more of the world, as I feel I’ve covered every inch of Mallorca a few times by now! Having lived in Asia on a couple of occasions, I’d be very keen to head back there and rediscover some of the cultures on that side of the planet... I’m also planning to see more of Europe, and particularly the Balkan states, whenever the opportunity arises. I’m fortunate in that I can take my work with me when I travel, so even when I take a break my clients can always reach me if they need anything.
Professionally, we are doing some very exciting things right now. I have the might of one of the largest offshore wealth management firms in the world behind me, Holborn Assets, and the opportunities for new partnerships and growth initiatives are tremendous. It looks like we are set for some really strong growth this year, and that will take up much of my focus. I’m also fairly active on my website, posting free guides for expats and webinars when I can. You can take a look at www.jonathanralph.com if you’d like to know more about these.
Advice for Making a Cross-Border Lifestyle Decision #
What is the most important advice you give to clients?
That is quite a question! It really depends on the client’s circumstances. There are clients that have all their ducks in a row, and clients that have never received advice before. Some have come from wealth; others are coming into money for the first time and need guidance.
My advice, and the benefits therein, therefore, needs to be personal and tailored to my clients’ needs. In my opinion, the most important part of financial planning is getting the basics right – establishing an emergency fund, making sure a valid will is in place, and having an intelligent investment plan that delivers on your goals and future needs as you hit the major milestones in your life.
Parting Thought #
Choosing to live as an expat, and particularly on Mallorca, is usually less to do with your wealth and more to do with your lifestyle. That was certainly the case for me! However, when you live abroad you can access certain planning opportunities that can help you build a stronger financial future. When done right, Mallorca can be a wonderful place to live a happier, healthier – and also wealthier – life.
Welcome Message from Jonathan Ralph
Ensure your finances are planned correctly. Secure your future and the lifestyle you deserve.
How to Connect with Jonathan Ralph
- personal interview
By Memphis Holland
27 August, 2021