Are you a British expat? Read on... or risk losing money

Are you a British expat? Read on... or risk losing money
20 July 2010

THE idea of losing track of your hard-earned cash may sound unlikely, but with all of the anxiety and planning involved in moving overseas, you may have forgotten about small balances or childhood accounts – or trivial pension plans from previous employment.

Thousands of people from the UK have been drawn to the UAE over the past few years thanks to its rapid development and economic growth, and there are now more than 100,000 Britons living in the UAE – mostly in Dubai. In fact, with nationals now accounting for just 16.5% of an estimated population of six million in the UAE, and 5% of the two million residents in Dubai, the expat community is booming.

Missing millions

When you arrive in a new country, you’re likely to be so preoccupied with settling into your new way of life and getting your new financial arrangements sorted, that you can easily lose track of accounts you held in the UK – especially if you forgot to pass on your new address to product providers.

However, if you have a niggling suspicion that you’ve got cash languishing in a long-lost account back home, now is the time to hunt it down. According to the latest figures, the overall total value currently lying in dormant accounts in the UK – those that have been inactive for 15 years or more – stands at more than £400 million (AED 2.1 billion/ $576m).

Track down forgotten funds

The good news is there are some simple steps you can take to track down your forgotten funds while overseas.

In January 2008, a unified “one-stop shop” tracing initiative was launched to reunite customers in the UK with their dormant accounts at mylostaccount.org.uk.

The online service unites the tracing schemes of the British Bankers’ Association (BBA), the Building Societies Association (BSA) and the state-backed National Savings & Investments (NS&I).

The site is free and easy to use, and simply requires you to provide personal details such as your name and address, including previous addresses where you held the account in question, as well as information relating to the account you are trying to trace.

A worldwide application

For expats tracing lost accounts, the website is the best place to start, according to a spokeswoman for NS&I – its beauty being that it can be used anywhere in the world.

“The process for tracing lost funds and dormant accounts is the same for a British expat as it is for any other UK or non-UK resident,” she says. “The site can be used by people living and working abroad, and has been used successfully to trace funds by people living in other countries.”

A spokeswoman for the BSA says most of the procedures are the same for expats as they are for British residents.

“The only difference is that the process may require some additional communication when it comes to verifying the authenticity of the applicant,” she adds.

Banks are doing their bit

At the same time, a growing band of financial institutions are making their own efforts to reunite customers with their lost cash.

HSBC, for example, announced last month that since September 2008, it has reunited 7,400 customers with £10.5m (AED 55.6m/ $15.1m) in dormant accounts through a combination of writing to them, advertising, setting up an unclaimed balances website and employing tracing agents.

Elsewhere, the latest figures from Lloyds Banking Group show the amount reunited across its banks – including Halifax, Lloyds TSB and Birmingham Midshires – was £32.8m (AED 173.5m/ $47.2m), while insurer Aviva recently announced it had passed its target to return £40m (AED 211.6m/ $57.6m) in unclaimed funds.

Other tracing services

Mylostaccount.org.uk is complemented by the Unclaimed Assets Register (uar.co.uk), which searches for occupational pensions, investments, life insurance and other assets – but you will have to pay a fee of £25 (AED 132/ $36) per search.

There is also a free pension tracing service available at thepensionservice.gov.uk and you can look for unit or investment trusts you might hold at investmentuk.org or theaic.co.uk.

Accounts that can’t be traced are expected to be transferred over to the government’s new central reclaim fund this summer. The aim of the fund is to return dormant assets to their owners if they come forward at any time, while reinvesting the remaining money in a range of charitable causes.

Finally, it’s worth bearing in mind that tracing forgotten assets is rarely a road to riches, as while the total sums sitting in these accounts may run into billions of pounds, most of the individual accounts contain far more modest sums of money.

Have you found missing millions? Share your stories with cashy!

Comments

  • HPGlobaleye
    HPGlobaleye
    2010-08-08T10:00:21

    You can also consult with your IFA who will be able to consolidate your frozen uk company pensions into an offshore SIPP (Self Invested Personal Pension, which is FSA approved).

If you are registered you need to log in to comment, if not, please sign up.

Author
Personal finance journalist
Facebook Feed
Related articles