Interview with Jacopo Zamboni, Director, Client Advisor
Tell us a little about yourself and your company.
I am an Italian living in Switzerland, where I advise financial institutions, family offices and individual clients on alternative residence and/or citizenship solutions.
In other terms, I like to think that I give clients and their families flexibility and peace of mind – be it by helping them relocate to a country which can guarantee a higher quality of life, a milder climate (both from a meteorological and taxation point of view), but also by providing them with increased freedom to travel, or to access Europe without too much red tape.
I always tell my clients that Henley & Partners is a market leader when it comes to residence and citizenship planning – this allows me to leverage our internal know-how and advise on over 20 jurisdictions. This way, clients know they will receive unbiased advise, in the sense that we have no incentive in “pushing” them towards one jurisdiction or another, but solely where it makes sense given their specific situation.
Currently, we have significant demand coming from US based clients, who for example ask me about relocation to Switzerland.
Why move to Switzerland from America?
I am asked this question often and in my mind I always reformulate it is: why relocate and leave the USA considering it is one of the highest recipients of foreign high net worth individuals on a yearly basis? Or in other terms, why are individuals leaving a country so many others are trying to access?
I think there are two possible answers: one is emotional, the other rational.
The emotional is simple and I will quote Ovidio, who put it in simple terms over 2000 years ago in his Ars Amatoria where he said: "Fertilior seges est alienis semper in agris, vicinumque pecus grandius uber habet", which now a days we usually hear as: “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”.
The rational answer to the above is usually a combination of the below factors, based on the individual’s background:
Business: many US individuals see Switzerland as the right place to do business and live in Europe. Swiss and US entrepreneurs know each other quite well considering USA ranks as the second largest destination for Swiss exports. Switzerland has one of the best business infrastructures in Europe, access to the common EU market as well as considerable domestic market opportunities.
Taxes: both from a corporate or individual point of view taxation in Switzerland is extremely attractive.
By relocating to Switzerland and benefiting from the so called “lump sum taxation” regime, individuals can basically negotiate how much taxes they will pay directly with the authorities (compared to US or most countries where taxes are a percentage of earned income)
Quality of life: many of my clients have already made their fortunes and come to Switzerland to enjoy life. From here they can access all of Europe, so some spend a few months during the summer in Tuscany, or send their children to study in the UK.
Are there any famous examples of US individuals in Switzerland?
I cannot share any names other than those who have publicly declared their relocation here. Some notable names of Americans who have lived or are still living in Switzerland are the singer Tina Turner (living close to Zurich lake), Léonard Lauder of the famous Esteé Lauder firm, and Barbara Hendricks.
Other non-US names I can mention who moved to Switzerland are the former king of Thailand who lived here when he was young, or Mr. Heineken (yes, him), and Coco Chanel.
Herman Hesse also chose Ticino in Switzerland which during the first world war was one of the locations attracting most European intelligentsia who were against the conflict, which was devastating Europe at the time.
Do all your American clients select Switzerland as a destination?
No, not at all.
Some end up in Italy to enjoy la Dolce Vita. Many of these end up living in Tuscany or similar regions which provide a combination of everything they might need: good food, friendly people, access to the best cultural events and venues (think of the Uffizi in Florence!).
Some families seek more exotic destinations such as Thailand.
Others combine residence in a European country with an alternative citizenship in Malta, Cyprus or the Caribbean.
Why would an American investor consider alternative citizenship?
All clients are different so there are various reasons why an American might be interested in obtaining an alternative citizenship.
One example is US executives currently residing in Switzerland whose employment mandate is about to expire. In order to remain in Switzerland they have to be sponsored by another firm in order to retain their residence permit. Many of these executives are not interested in working anymore, thus the only option they have as non-Europeans is to become European. Becoming European will basically allow them and their family to freely stay in Switzerland as long as they wish.
Another typical example are clients already residing outside of the US for a long time, and are not particularly happy with the burdensome tax reporting requirements. Some of these prefer to become citizens of another country and relinquish their US passport (and pay exit taxes) hence removing the need to report their worldwide assets and income (and save on tax advisor fees going forward).
Many of these individuals opt for Malta as an alternative citizenship since it grants access to all of Europe, but also retains the right to visit the USA visa-free.
A final example is individuals who actually will never really leave the USA, but want the flexibility to do so should the need arise. Most of my clients do it for their children – once European they have the right to live, work and study anywhere in Europe. For them, giving their family this flexibility is priceless.