Devere Shanghai =bad bad bad.
Summary- my wife and I were told our policy had flexibility (i.e.- withdraw funds up to 50% of net worth at any time in ten working days) when in fact the policy Devere Shanghai sold us has no flexibility. Fees? Exorbitant! 2400 USD per year! Not in writing or in any literature.
You thinking about using Devere as your broker for FPI? Get every detail you can possibly think of in writing. Read on for our sob story and beware Devere Shanghai. They are sales-man. They are NOT financial advisors, not friends, and in my opinion, not to be trusted.
My wife and I opened a ‘retirement / college’ fund account in 2012 through DeVere in Shanghai, China. One of the good points of the product our broker recommended to us was it’s ‘flexibility’, according to our Shanghai Devere broker. "At any time (after the initial 18 month start-up period) you can withdraw up to 50% of the funds in the account for any reason and receive the funds within 10 working days." He knew that was a sales-closer for us. My wife and I wanted that flexibility. He said it did. We signed. 18 months went by.
We had an emergency in the family and needed to withdraw some funds. We contacted our broker at DeVere Shanghai multiple times via email and phone, even had him over for dinner twice and explained that we needed to withdraw 10,000 USD of our holdings (less 50%). We were ignored. After 2 months, we finally were able to set up an appointment at the DeVere office in Shanghai. We met with our broker at which time he asked us ‘why’ we wanted to do withdraw funds (like it’s any of his bloody business), and that we ‘shouldn’t’ withdraw funds as this product wasn’t made for this type of flexibility. In the end he agreed to let us withdraw a paltry 5% of our policy’s net-worth. We were shocked and frustrated. We decided to go with this investment because we were directly told in no uncertain terms that we could pull funds up to 50% at any time after the initial 18 months. We knew that we would need to do this for our girls’ college education expenses and of course in cases of emergencies. We felt comfortable investing our money knowing that we had access to some of our money throughout the life of the product for these two reasons (college tuition and emergencies). We even spent time working out a tiered plan with our broker (i.e.- in 5 years, withdraw to pay tuition, in ten years, withdraw to pay tuition, etc…). This plan along with the figure we wanted as a final goal for retirement was what determined how much we would contribute every month.
A total farce.
We asked DeVere how much we were being charged for their services. It took our broker 6 weeks to provide us with an arbitrary verbally spoken (un-written) answer- "about 2400.00 USD" for the first 18 months, and similar charges annually no matter how small a monthly deposit might be for the length of the investment (which is different from what we were told by our broker initially which was that "the charge after the first 18 months would be $120 annually". Those charges never appeared in a statement or on our credit card that we used for payment. They just pulled it from our ‘funds’, is how our broker phrased it. "You’ll never see it," he said. "It’s built in." When pressed, the arbitrary figure popped up. They cannot show us how they got it and won’t put it in writing.
Again, we were shocked. NONE of this is mentioned in our agreement or the policy paperwork that we were given and signed off on. We asked our broker at DeVere Shanghai for an itemized list of annual service fees and any other ‘charges’. To this day they have not provided us with one. In the end, DeVere Shanghai gave us verbal, un-documented, arbitrary amounts. I’ve gotten a very clear feeling that they have no clue or more than likely simply do not want anyone to know. They hide their service fees as much as they can. They are NOT transparent with their fees. DeVere has never showed us ‘how’ they came up with their figures. Nothing is in writing. No receipt. No itemized charges. Magical figures pulled from the air. Not acceptable.
We asked to close the account. DeVere Shanghai told us that we would surrender almost all of our savings and the majority of our earnings if we were to do so. It took them 5 weeks to figure that out and get back to us. Again, none of this is in writing in our policy. Nowhere does it state in the policy given to us by DeVere, or the Friend’s Provident literature, that in closing the account we would forfeit our entire investment and savings. No-where. Those words do NOT exist in any paper work provided.
Of course we don’t want to lose our savings. We asked if we could stop payment for a time. The broker said that that could be arranged. They would contact us. They have not contacted us but, as of now, Devere has not charged us for the month of March or April 2014 but again, nothing is in writing. We have requested a document from DeVere stating that we requested a ‘holiday’ from payment but again we have been ignored. Nothing is signed. Nothing is in writing for this and we fear other charges or financial repercussions.
I wrote Friend’s Provident in London and asked for answers to the questions below.
In a nutshell our experience with Devere in Shanghai has been horrible. The *** is the guy who sold us this product walks around our school as a community volunteer, rubbing shoulders with others trying to groom future sales. I want to stand up and shout his name but I am not doing that. Why slander his name when it won’t accomplish anything? At this point it's a 'he said vs. he said' situation. Best thing is, dear reader, if you regard my complaint with any seriousness to simply avoid Devere Shanghai completely. Then maybe management will deal with their own weaknesses in their own ways as they see a loss of sales.
We are in communications with FPI in London trying to sever Devere from our product. At least in that regards we don’t have to pay Devere a penny for services un-rendered.
Avoid Devere Shanghai. If this is the best they can do then they deserve absolutely no business from anyone.
We requested the following from FPI in London. We are in the midst of determining how to self-manage our FPI account. Blessings to those willing to read through my long-winded diatribe.
- Complete breakdown of fees and annual charges of our investment. We want to know that if we have ‘X’ amount in our portfolio, then what is the ‘Y’ amount that Friends’ or a broker will charge per year.o Decreased pay-in: what is the procedure? What are the changes in annual fees? o Increased pay-in: How to increase our monthly contribution or add a lump-sum contribution? Procedure? Costs? Changes in annual fees?o Hiatus- are there options to take a holiday from payments? What are those details? What are the changes in annual fees? Can we get something in writing?
- Self managed vs. managed. o Self managed? • What are the practical functions we have to self manage our investment, such as a change of Funds, decrease or increase monthly pay-in, and funds- withdrawal? • What are the differences in annual charges between self-managed or broker-managed? • What are the costs to any changes we make through self-management?- Flexibility options- details on withdrawing funds.o How much? Include both minimum and maximum amounts.o When? Time period(s) withdrawals can be made.o Time from a request to seeing the money in our personal bank account?o How to withdraw? Procedure?o Complete costs, if any, associated with withdrawals.
Monetary Loss: $35000.