Do you still have bank accounts, or savings and investments, in the UK?
Photo: TIRACHARD KUMTANOM/PEXELS.COM

Do you still have bank accounts, or savings and investments, in the UK?

While British expatriates will open a local bank account in their country of residence, and look for new tax-efficient investment opportunities, many will also retain their UK bank accounts and often also keep UK investments such as National Savings & Investments and ISAs.

This is partly for convenience but also because they are familiar and feel secure.

But times have changed. Brexit rewrote the financial services landscape for UK nationals living in EU countries. When the UK left the European single market at the end of 2020, its financial advisory services industry lost EU passporting rights. This means that UK-based financial advisers are no longer automatically authorised to give advice to EU or EEA residents, unless they have the necessary regulatory permissions in each jurisdiction their clients live in.

One major consequence has been that many UK-based banks have had to close UK accounts owned by EU-resident clients, leaving expatriates without the bank account they may have used for years or even decades.

As we approached the Brexit deadline in 2020, many British expatriates received letters from their UK banks asking them to close their accounts. There was a lot of press about it at the time, but 18 months on, this has died down. However, it is too early to breathe a sigh of relief if your UK financial institution has not contacted you yet. The situation is still evolving, and some issues take longer to come to light.

We have just recently seen letters sent from Barclays Personal Banking in the UK and National Savings & Investments asking clients with EU residential addresses to close their accounts.

UK bank accounts

In their letter to a client living in Spain, the Personal Banking division of Barclays explains:

“Please take action: we need you to close your account.

We’re applying limitations to the banking services we provide to customers with an address in the European Economic Area (EEA). We’re sorry to say this means we need you to close your account… To keep using your savings and/or current account with us, everyone on the account needs to be living in the UK and all the addresses we have for you need to be in the UK too… There are some limited exceptions that allow you to keep using your accounts with an EEA address.”

The letter dated May 10, 2022, gives the client until November 24, 2022, to confirm whether an exception applies, provide a UK address or close their accounts, following which the accounts will be closed on or after December 2, 2022.

Nationals Savings & Investments (NS&I)

The situation with NS&I accounts is a little different, but linked, with the same consequence.

As its website explains, Nationals Savings & Investments has always been a UK savings provider, backed by HM Treasury, but it does have some customers who live abroad.  However, they still need a UK bank or building society account in their name.

Since many British expatriates have had no choice but to close their UK bank accounts following Brexit, NS&I is now writing to inform them that this will affect their ability to continue holding their accounts.

The letter advises EU resident clients:

“You need to have a UK bank or building society account to be able to continue to operate an account with NS&I.”

It asks the clients to check if they can continue to hold their UK bank or building society account. If it is already closed or the provider plans to close it, they need to provide NS&I with details of another UK account in their name. If they cannot do this, then:

“You will need to close your NS&I account – this is because it’s a requirement of the terms and conditions of your NS&I account that you are able to hold and maintain a UK bank account.”

NS&I includes the ever-popular Premium Bonds, some of which you may have owned for decades.

This can all seem unsettling. It is a significant change for UK nationals living abroad and since it involves your savings, it could be rather worrying.

If you are affected by this, or are concerned that you could be, talk to a locally based, cross-border adviser to establish what the options are for your savings as a resident of Portugal.

This is a good opportunity to review your savings and investments to establish if they remain suitable for your life today and your future plans – they should be based on your circumstances, objectives, needs, time horizon and risk tolerance. Also consider which arrangements are most tax-efficient in Portugal, and how they can be passed onto your heirs as easily and cost effectively as possible.

Keep up to date on the financial issues that may affect you on the Blevins Franks news page at www.blevinsfranks.com

By Sharon Farrell
|| features@algarveresident.com

Sharon Farrell is a Partner of Blevins Franks in Portugal.
www.blevinsfranks.com