Michael Kitces Financial Advisor Success Podcast

#FASuccess Ep 205: Differentiating from the Crowd by Pursuing a Specialized Clientele of Cross-Border (Swiss) Expatriates With Marina Hernandez

December 08, 2020


Welcome back to the 205th episode of Financial Advisor Success Podcast!


My guest for today’s podcast is Marina Hernandez. Marina is an Investment Advisor Representative with Dynamic Wealth Advisors dba Swiss American Wealth Advisors. All investment advisory services are offered through Dynamic Wealth Advisors. She also offers tax preparation services under MHTax, this is considered an outside business activity from Dynamic Wealth Advisors and is separate and apart from Marina’s activities as an investment advisor representative of Dynamic Wealth Advisors.

What’s unique about Marina, though, is the way her specialized niche allows her to command sizable financial planning fees, working primarily with otherwise hard-to-work-with next-generation clients, while facing remarkably little competition at all, but focusing on not just cross-border expatriate clients, but specifically, those expatriates going just between the U.S. and Switzerland.

In this episode, we talk in-depth about what makes the niche of cross-border planning for expatriates so unique and so complex, the challenges from potential double-taxation of foreign country retirement accounts that the U.S. doesn’t recognize for favorable tax treatment, how the rising focus on preventing money laundering and foreign tax cheats has created new layers of specialized tax reporting that expatriates must handle or face $10,000 fines from the U.S. government, and why even seemingly simple publicly traded investments that hold a diversified portfolio in a foreign country can create significant additional U.S. tax challenges.

We also talk about how Marina is structuring her advisory business, why she chose to break away from the existing advisory firm to start her own practice, the reason she affiliated with a larger firm, Dynamic Wealth Advisors, to provide her own back-office RIA support and get her access to multiple RIA custodial platforms, the software tool she uses to do financial planning with her expatriate clients, and why despite the fact that her value hinges on solving the especially complex problems her clients face, Marina’s financial planning process is actually very efficient, because her specialization has allowed her to develop repeatable expertise.

Be certain to listen to the end, where Marina shares her journey in finding her cross-border expatriate niche, how her need to handle her own family’s taxes as an expatriate living in London made her aware of the unique complexities for Americans living overseas, how the combination of CFP marks and Enrolled Agent license and her experience on international tax issues meant that she had three job offers out to her within just a few months of joining the Financial Planning Association and network for career opportunities, and why Marina is taking the barbell approach to serving the marketplace with a premium financial planning fee for her most complex clients, but then also offering free financial education classes for cross-border citizens who may also need help and may not be able to afford her premium services.

So whether you’re interested in learning about how Marina became an international tax expert, how she found a career that supported her need for mobility, or why she ultimately decided to partner with another firm, then we hope you enjoy this episode of the Financial Advisor Success podcast.

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