EXPATS HIT BY FIRM CLOSURE
Hundreds of Costa Blanca clients fear they have lost their life savings
HUNDREDS of clients of Continental Wealth Management (CWM) fear they have lost life savings after the Costa Blanca financial advice company crashed.
Customers along the Costa Blanca were said to be devastated, highly distressed and even suicidal after CWM suddenly closed on September 29 and its website was taken down.
The company’s plush offices adjacent to La Sella Golf Resort in Dénia – once home to high profile celebrity CWM golf days - remained locked and deserted this week.
The company’s ‘owner’ and driving force Darren Kirby is believed to have fled abroad; it is understood he has travelled to Australia.
And social media has come alive with angry clients trying to discover what has happened to their money and pensions after CWM closed.
The company claimed to have 500 clients and some £50 million under management.
The first hint something was wrong for many clients was an email sent on September 29 saying: “Dear client, it is with immense sorrow that I have to inform you that Continental Wealth Management will be closing today” – before advising investors to contact the regulator about policies.
CWM claimed to have 26 years’ experience ‘in wealth management solutions on all aspects of offshore and onshore investment strategies for their clients’; dealing in investments, pensions and QROPS.
However, it allegedly used cold calling and a ‘hard sell’ strategy to find new business, with a call centre in Orba and a sales team operating along the Costa Blanca.
Following the collapse of the company there have also been allegations of mis-selling and fraud; and it is claimed client signatures were forged on dealing instructions.
Angie Brooks of Pension Life said: “From 2013 onwards, CWM invested hundreds of low to medium risk clients’ investments in high risk, illiquid assets. CWM completely ignored the suitability issue and paid no heed to the clients’ preference for safe low risk investments.
“Clients signatures were repeatedly copied and once the losses started to appear, CWM assured them that there was nothing to worry about and they were ‘only paper losses’.”
She said money was moved into professional ‘investoronly’ investments unsuitable for CWM clients.
Trafalgar International, CWM’s German-based regulator, Momentum Pensions in Malta, and Old Mutual International, the bond supplier, are trying to locate funds to put into a pot to compensate clients.
Christian Brady, regional manager of Blacktower Financial Management Group, said a stream of worried CWM clients had visited her Javea offices to ask her advice about their policies and investments.
She praised the three ‘huge’ companies for their dedicated work in trying to trace money to repay clients at least in part.
“Some people are suicidal,” she said. “They have put life savings into this and expected a quarterly or monthly income; suddenly they get nothing; they are suddenly on a UK state pension.
“They are at an age where they cannot go out and work and try to recoup losses – they cannot physically or mentally go out and get a job.”
She said people were ‘devastated and distressed’; adding: “These people trusted a company to do their best for them, people were told not to worry and their money would be put into an investment appropriate for them.
“I think it is very, very bad and it reflects on the whole industry – and there are very good financial advisors out there. It makes you feel disillusioned in your profession and your job that this sort of thing happens – it makes you question things and makes you very angry.”
Anyone worried about their investment is asked to email a dedicated address or call a special number at Trafalgar International: 0049 69 3329 6730 or firstname.lastname@example.org.