Blacktower have been advising clients in the UK and the rest of the world since 1986. / SHAY CONAGHAN

‘People come to us to guide them through the maze of the Spanish system’

Blacktower Financial Management sat down with SUR in English to talk about how they can help their clients manage and maximise their wealth

SHAY CONAGHAN

Blacktower Financial Management is a British financial services company formed in 1986 by John Westwood. Blacktower expanded to mainland Europe at the turn of the millennium before making their way to the Americas six years ago and then opening an office in Australia this year. Their Costa del Sol office is conveniently located between Mijas and Fuengirola; and the branch, from where Blacktower look after their clients, has six consultants and admin support to take care of all their clients’ needs and queries, as well as to give them advice about managing their situation in Spain. Associate Director Tim Govaerts and International Financial Adviser Lucía Melgarejo spoke to SUR in English about their work.

What makes Blacktower different?

– It’s different in that it’s a family-style company, that’s how we started and that’s how we still operate. We have those core family values within the company. We know our clients, their children’s names and very often our financial advice goes onto the next generation. As we’ve grown, we’ve made sure to have the proper licences, which is protection for the client. Before Brexit happened, we also made sure that we had all the licences in place in Europe to be able to continue operating with our clients.

How would you define Blacktower’s clients in Spain?

– We have all nationalities. Mainly British and expats who decided to live here in Spain because they want to retire or continue working.

What kind of services do you offer clients?

– We offer wealth management in the broader sense of the word. It mainly consists of three parts: people come to us for generic advice, declarations like Modelo 720, tax questions, although we’re not accountants per se, which is an important reason why people contact us. Then we have investments in general, people who have money sitting in a bank account and not earning a decent amount of interest, especially now with inflation sky-high, so they come to us for advice. Thirdly, we have people who seek pension advice; we deal mainly with people who are retired or nearing retirement. Many people have a lot of money sitting in pension schemes, so when they come to retire here they need advice on how to use those accumulated funds, which of course is a very important part of our business as well.

What are the most common queries from your clients?

– Mainly they ask about taxation here in Spain, because what they heard before they came to live here is that we have a high rate and that they are liable for many taxes. We also try to explain when the deadlines are, what are their obligations, what they need to do and how. We’re not accountants, but we put them in touch with the professionals they need. They also ask whether we can service them with the existing investments they have in the UK, because after Brexit the UK adviser is no longer able to advise them, so they need to find someone in the place they’re going to live to track their pensions and investments. In general, there are a lot of grey areas and people consult and ask us to guide them through the maze of getting into the Spanish system, which is something we do on a day-to-day basis.

How have things changed in the last three years?

– Before Covid, we had a lot of meetings face-to-face, but during lockdown even our oldest clients got to know the benefits of videocalls. So the way we work has changed a lot, although we’re happy to be able to meet clients in person again. The ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) principles are now at the forefront of the investment advice we give, so that’s changed too.

How has Brexit affected UK clients?

– It’s much harder for UK clients to spend time here without a proper visa in place. New arrivals are only allowed to spend three months in a six-month period, unless they apply for a non-lucrative or a golden visa. Brits are still coming. Before, a lot of people rectified their situation; after Brexit, there was a gap in new arrivals; but now we see that people are still attracted to life in Spain, even though it’s a bit more complicated.

How would you advise UK citizens who live in Spain?

– Just to have everything in order. Knowing the rules, how we work here, what is the tax, what are your obligations, when they need to submit forms and tax returns, when they are liable... That’s the main advice we give to them, as well as making sure they have a proper, qualified and regulated financial adviser at their side. If you come and live here for 183 days, you automatically become a fiscal resident, so you need to know the system.

And what advice would you give to UK citizens who want to come?

– To always seek advice before you make the move and before you become a Spanish tax resident. For example, if you want to sell a house you bought in the UK after you become a resident in Spain, Spanish capital gains tax is potentially applicable to that sale. That’s why it’s important that you seek local advice, so that you’re aware of that.

How can you help EU-nationals who move to Spain?

– We’re a very international organisation and we’re not only focused on British nationals here. In the end, anyone who moves to Spain, if they live here on a more or less permanent basis, will be considered a Spanish resident for tax purposes. It’s very important to review your situation, what assets you have, how they are viewed by the Spanish authorities... As we always tell our clients, when you come here to Spain you need to take off your ‘home’ glasses and put on your ‘Spanish’ glasses and look at your situation through the Spanish tax system. So it doesn’t really make a difference if you’re coming from Norway, Belgium or the UK. Governments worldwide give certain tax benefits to certain structures to encourage certain social behaviours. They can be very country specific, so it’s important to understand that those tax-efficient structures aren’t tax-efficient here in Spain, regardless of where you come from. Check that everything is in order so that you have that peace of mind.

For further information or enquiries, Blacktower Financial Management can be found at Centro Idea, Carretera de Mijas KM3.6 Local A44, 29650, Mijas, Spain. Tim Govaerts can be contacted at +34 685 976 471 or Tim.govaerts@blacktowerfm.com; Lucía Melgarejo can be contacted at +34 636 072 820 or Lucia.melgarejo@blacktowerfm.com.

The challenges investors face

Out of all the rising challenges investors will have to face in the coming year, inflation is going to be the biggest. “It’s been a very bumpy ride so far for investors; it’s the worst start of the year since the financial crisis,” said Tim Govaerts, Associate Director at Blacktower Costa del Sol. “Investments across the board have lost value since the start of the year, the FTSE100 is one of the only exceptions.” Govaerts said inflation will continue in the short term until central banks can show signs of controlling it. “Now, fund managers see opportunities to capitalise by buying shares in companies that have been affected by the downward trend in the market.”