By Abbas Hashmi, Global Business Development Director, Hongkun USA
Without a doubt, convincing wealthy individuals across the Gulf Cooperation Council to invest in U.S. regional centers is a unique challenge. This region is my niche and core focus, so I have seen first-hand how you need every edge you can get if you want to make any headway among high net worth individuals (HNWI) and their savvy agents in this part of the world. If you have spent anytime marketing U.S. immigration investment services in the Middle East, then you have seen how the typical pitches do not usually work. How many times have you had a similar conversation with an investor or their family office agent that went something like:
“You see, sir, the EB-5 Program allows your children to go to any university in the U.S.”
“My oldest son is already attending Harvard on a student visa.”
“In that case, having a second home in the United States is a huge advantage for—”
“I already own property in California, New York and Florida. Probably a few other places too; I don’t recall exactly. Why do I need to invest in one of these regional development center things, with their notoriously poor rates of return?”
“Well, a great advantage of investing in American real estate are the incredible tax savings—”
Wait… I’ll have to pay taxes as well? The UAE doesn’t have an individual or corporate tax system. Why should I move a single dollar out of my homeland? What’s in it for me?”
“Um… what exactly are you looking for, sir?”
This is usually the point where your prospect loses all interest and suddenly remembers they are late for an engagement. And how can you blame them? We should have known the answer and had a solution handy before we even picked up the phone. That is why identifying those needs and fears, customizing your value propositions accordingly and honing your sales techniques in the local market is one of the key objectives of the IIUSA Global Banquet in Dubai.
If you are unprepared, the Arabian Peninsula will be the most challenging environment in which you ever operated. It will cost a small fortune in time and resources just trying to compete on a level-playing field with all the domestic-oriented wealth management services. But it does not need to be that way.
With everyone focused on taking advantage of the Emirate’s tax haven status, this is a golden opportunity to crack open an underserved international investing market, and do so with minimal competition.
It all depends on how much groundwork you put into developing a deep-dive understanding of the specific needs of this diverse audience. And the first step is to attend IIUSA’s one-of-a-kind banquet in Dubai, right in the middle of this red-hot market.
Here are some of the unique ways this event will enhance your local profile, sharpen your skills and expand your insight into the mindset of agents and investors across the GCC:
Build Your Brand
Over half the attendees at IIUSA Banquets in 2018 were investors themselves or their direct agents. So this is more than a networking event among EB-5 industry professionals. It is a great opportunity to land invaluable facetime with the key stakeholders you are trying to convert. You can read all the reports and statistics you like, but nothing beats shaking hands with local decision makers and chatting in detail about their specific concerns over dinner.
There are few other venues where you can cut through the fog of general statistics and see the “on the ground” challenges for yourself, all before you make a serious pitch.
For example, various surveys imply that investors in the UAE are beginning to place a premium on safeguarding capital rather than growing their wealth. In 2018, 75% of Emirate HNWI’s said that rising geopolitical tensions in the region had affected their investment decisions. Yet at the same time, only 17% considered North America their preferred foreign investment destination. So if these people are really so interested in safety, then why a lack of interest in the most stable and well-regulated economy in the world?
Once you begin talking to these investors though, you will discover the nuances the numbers left out; which generates ample opportunities to change their minds about the value, safety and flexibility that permanent residency in the United States offers them, even if they do not plan to live in the U.S. permanently.
Practice and Refine Your Value Proposition
Networking with peers and spending quality face time with a wide range of potential clients are the core goals of the IIUSA Global Banquet Series. Which is why IIUSA has tailored these events to strike a careful balance between a large industry seminar and a small, informal conference of industry professionals and investors. With 100 – 150 attendees, the banquet is large enough to represent the whole local industry spectrum of regional centers to investors and everyone in between while being small enough to feel intimate and relaxed, affording plenty of opportunities to build new working relationships and test your talking points in practice.
Explore the Ins and Outs of the Eclectic Local Clientele.
Dubai is less of a regional marketplace and more of an international clubhouse of the world’s most well-heeled. In fact, nearly half of the HNWI’s currently living in the UAE were born in a different country. Some made their fortunes in Arabia, while others moved their operations to the Gulf later. In practice, there is a good chance that the Saudi or Emirati prospect behind the family office you are speaking with is not a native Arab businessman or woman at all.
You will find CEO’s originally from India, who will not be able to obtain an Emirati passport, but are not interested in returning to their home country. Perhaps even a Lebanese-born property developer looking to expand operations globally. Or a Pakistani investor who made their fortune in the Gulf and has no intention to leave the region, but would like to acquire U.S. green cards for their children. The opportunities are endless in this multi-cultural melting pot. Regardless, no one understands all the different passions, values and life goals of your prospective clients better than the local operators you’ll meet at this banquet.
Sharpen and Expand Your Skillsets
In addition to a Q&A educational panel covering hot topics in the industry, the Banquet will feature sponsor demonstrations that share their best practices and troubleshooting tricks for common obstacles in the local market. You will also have plenty of time to chat one on one with local law firms, migration agents and other professionals to get in tune with the all the financial, legal and cultural details that can make or break your client outreach.
Best of all, you will have the rare opportunity to compare and contrast the UAE-specific approaches many other regional centers and EB-5 service providers are using in real-time. You will be hard-pressed to find another “real world” educational event that will so drastically cut down the learning curve in this part of the world.