Friday, June 26, 2015

Zurich Vista Plan


Dear Mr. Tan,

As an expat in Singapore I signed up for Zurich's Vista Plan. Life in Singapore was good and I am very grateful for the hospitality and opportunity provided by the Singaporean Government. (My 2 kids are called Lee and Kuan, my wife's last name is Yu. That wasn't done on purpose, but in a way it does reflect our respect for the Minister Mentor.)
While liberal financial regulations have made Singapore what it is today, the top city to do business in, I feel that regulations aren't protecting end consumers as they should. MAS has brought some considerable improvement in this area, but does it go far enough?
As an example, I would like to call on all customers who regretfully have purchased a Zurich Vista investment plan.
I say regretfully, because for me it hasn't worked out. After several years of contribution, this is the score:
- on contributions of about us$ 200,000, Zurich has charged me us$20,000.-
- my gain has been around 4-5% per annum (which is good for Singapore, but standard in Australia)
- that gain is mostly due to the bonus which I was given at the beginning for signing up, this bonus effect will decline over the years
My main regret, besides the high cost, is regarding the terms and conditions that come into play when life changes and contributions to Zurich have to be paused.

Once I stopped making regular contributions, I found out that some of the charges simply continue and that stopping alltogether is costly, due to a steep surrender penalty. I am establishing if I have been mislead or ill-informed, or, whether it has been my own fault to buy into this product. 

My individual opinion - other people may have their own -  is that I bought 'flexibility', and that the fixed fee structure and high surrender penalties haven't been made clear enough. As a part of that process, if there are more customer like me, I am calling on them to see if we can take collective action:
Erik van Vulpen


Anonymous said...

You are being held hostage like all other par insurance products.
You can't escape. If you want to free yourself you have to pay high ransom. This means whatever you received as bonuses will be gone plus your capital.
There is little disclosure...this is the modus oprendi of all conmen insuraunce agents and women.Only disclose what you want to hear.

yujuan said...

Said before, dun invest in Singapore.
Invest in Communist Hongkong and Australia, or even Malaysia, never in Singapore.
Investors are on same level as local casino gamblers, used as sacrificial lambs to boost GDP, for whose benefits everybody knows at heart.
Foreigners are just as daft. Time for them to wake up too, as Singapore is just a mirage in the desert, blink harder, it vanishes into the air.

Anonymous said...

The liberal financial regulations also allowed you & your family to enjoy the good life in Singapore. The double-edged sword cuts both ways. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

Your individual contract is governed under S'pore laws, and we all know the odds of success in contesting against large financial companies here. Frankly, on the face of it, you don't appear to have much of a case. It's not like your money vapourised or the product collapsed. Did you declare yourself as HNWI? If so, then it's even harder.

You *may* have more success mounting a case in Swiss if you can show that the product was conceived and formulated in Swiss. But I know nothing about Swiss laws or the success rates of precedents over there. Just be prepared that Swiss didn't built up its reputation for financial secrecy and money haven status on mere popular marketing.

Anonymous said...

Well put in this way, u are better than us who invested in mini bond and pinnacle notes. We get nothing back unlike those in hong kong. Don't waste your time as it is your bad luck to invest here.

Wilfred Ling said...

I find it interesting that this person choose to blame the product manufacturer for his woes by mentioning the manufacturer's name while remaining silent to the fact that it was his financial adviser who appeared to have recommended an unsuitable product.

Erik said...

@ Wilfred,

Yes, the reseller played an important role in the process. His verbal statements haven't helped me at all. In fact, I would argue that they have sent me in the wrong direction, but there's little to proof. That's why I am looking for more people that have regretted their purchase.

Wilfred Ling said...


You signed the benefit illustration which would have disclosed the length of the policy and the heavy penalty for early surrender. The policy cannot be incepted without this benefit illustration being signed by you. Does it mean you sign without reading it? Should anyone sign a piece of document without understanding? If the benefit illustration says 20 years, you have to stick with it for 20 years. No ifs and bus otherwise there is no point in printing these documents for signing.

That 'reseller' is not a 'salesperson'. He/she is your financial adviser with the fiduciary duty to look after your own interest. The consumer is the one who select his own financial adviser to represent his own interest just as an individual select his own lawyer to represent his own interest in the court.

In this case there are three issues:

1) a product that appears to have high charges (debatable depending on the tax savings),

2) signing benefit illustrations without reading/understanding or with no intention to adhere to the required of the stated tenor; and

3) incorrect selection of the financial adviser.

Note that (2) and (3) have nothing to do with the product itself but has to do with the consumer's own actions.

I always see people complaining about being mis-sold a product but never once have I seen people recognising that the consumer themselves are largely to be blame and in the above example two out of three issues have to do with the fault of the consumer.

Anonymous said...

there is no way for consumers to understand whatever products. The customers' knowledge is as much as what the salesman disclosed and usually lesser.Very often it is as good as having none. You are right the customers didn't bother or afraid to ask more or afraid to look stupid or pretend to know and hope that trusting the salesman will eventually turn out good. Unfortunately, in life insurance nothing will ever turn out good.They are all rotten.
The products are designed to make it hard for the customers to understand. If the customers do understand they will never buy because the products are rotten.
Therefore , it is not wrong to say that it is the fiduciary of insurance agents to ensure the products sold are in favour of the customers' interest.Signing the BIs doesn't mean the customers read and understand. It is not fair
to the customers when the agent doesn't even understand.
In the court of law the insurance salesmen are financial experts and authority on insurance and customers are clueless trusting layman.It is the responsibility of the salesmen to ensure that the customers' need are met.

Wilfred Ling said...

It is better not to buy anything one does not understand.

Anonymous said...


I am in the same boat. For the poster that copied and pasted the Zurich fund is good text, do you want to buy my fund? Its upfront bonus has all gone in 3 years, the redemption value is dropping on a daily basis. Great fund though, look at the projections, you will have a wonderful retirement, you can take payment holidays. I feel like I trusted too much and my needs weren't met and the important details were not specified.

Erik said...

@ Wilfred

Consumers buy things everyday that they don't understand or can't verify. If all purchases would rely on 'Buyer beware' approaches to regulation life would be a lot more difficult than it is now.

You wouldn't be able to confidently buy a meal at a hawker store for instance. Is the regulation in Singapore in the financial sector as tight as it is for hawker stores and their food safety qualifications?

When I bought this investment plan, I thought I understood what I bought, and I am just wondering if the regulator should help a little more to make life easier.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is better not to buy BUT when if one is pressured by a friend who tries to CONfuse, CONvince and later CON you into taking it up, HOW?

Anonymous said...

This product is scam sold by conmen and women to enrich themselves.

Anonymous said...

I used to worked for a brokerage firm that sold loads of this product to expats in SG. Please post this letter to the forum page so more clients will know & take collective actions.

Anonymous said...

You must broadcast this msg to the expat community. Writing to Mr Tan can only create awareness among a small grp of ppl. I met my ex-colleague the other day (brokerage firm) & he told me they are still hiring. Seems like they are doing brisk biz. Shout out your views so we can prevent more expats from falling victims.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I am in similar situation and also not seeing any of the promises being delivered. losing money everyday.
Dont mind joining you in this quest.

Anonymous said...

I lost quite a large sum in Zurich Vista plan, I'd blame a sales guy from Global Financial Consultants, Singapore. Generally these sales folks are not going to tell it all. On consumers side, we don't know all terms and conditions, blame it partially on our greed.
That sales guy left Singapore, he said I could withdraw funds when needed but didn't mention heavy penalty for premature exit, admin fees, first 18th months lock period (which is basically sales guy/firms' commission GFC in my case). I noticed that around due date of premium, my portfolio's value was magically climbing and lowering after few days of payment of monthly premium.
The guy didn't tell me that after 18th months if I need to surrender, I must pay 19th Month's premium, which Zurich/GFC will suck up and payout after deducting early exit fees, admin fees etc and balance return at market value of funds in my portfolio , out of 19th month's premium i.e. you'll get shit if you exit early.
I read documents after talking to morons at GFC, Zurich clearly states a complex formula at end of pages of policy booklet, which I'm sure not everyone will read/understand.
Its been 3+ years since the incident, I have stopped paying for policy premium but I feel anguished/sad at losing my hard earned money. If anyone knows an alternative to get GFC like agents brought under lens of MAS etc, please let me know.
Tell people not to invest in anything without understanding, whatever scheme sounds too good, is fishy, doubt it. If you can't manage your own money, no son of gun can do for you.

Unknown said...

I am an Australian expat who also purchased the Zurich Vista Plan whilst living in Singapore (via an AAM Advisory financial planner/sales person). Having already paid the first 18 months of premium, I stopped paying after finding out that I cannot access the money until 35 years have passed- unless of course I pay the ridiculously high surrender charges, which means losing ~90% of my investment. I understand that this is a long term 'savings plan', but there's no flexibility or option to move the funds into another Zurich plan/fund if you have a change in your life circumstances.

Zurich markets the Vista Plan as 'ideal if you are internationally mobile' however, for such a global organisation, it doesn't have any options to move funds from the Vista Plan to a Zurich pension/superannuation fund within one's own country.

Had I known about these restrictions and high surrender charges up front, I definitely would not have bought into the plan. However, my financial 'adviser' never advised me on these drawbacks - just the benefits.

Has anyone had any success obtaining access to funds invested in the Vista policy? As I have stopped paying premium, apparently I will lose the entire investment, if I do not restart payment at the 3 year mark.

Has this already been raised to CASE or MAS or any of the tribunals responsible for investigating dodgy advice given by financial advisers? If so, I would be happy to join the fight!

Anonymous said...

One question to ask is whether the advisor himself/herself bought the same product.
Most of the time, the answer is either no or a refusal to answer the question.

Good investment products are bought and not sold.
Generally the huge building housing the insurance companies is a reflection of how much profit they are making and not how great their investments are.

Anonymous said...

Simple rule of thumb. If your cost is high your return is low. Whatever insurance products they are designed in favour of the insurer.As it is well known , pay the insurance agents high commission and they are willing to do anything and say ANYTHING to CONvince you and even to lie to get you to buy.
Any idea how much is the commission?

The Watchman said...

It will be a big mistake for MAS if it is going to cap the insurance products first year commission at 55%. It should be 20% first year and the rest of the commission spread evenly over 5 years. This is to prevent greedy agents from pushing the products at the expense of the customers' interest.
MAS, emulate your counterparts in other jurisdictions and hold a tight rein on the insurance industry. Remember that the industry exists to help the customers and not to enrich the agents and the insurers.

Anonymous said...

I too have been completely screwed over by this plan. It was completely misrepresented by my so-called financial advisor in Japan, who like others on this board have encountered, do not provide all of the details of the plan.

Zurich deliberately allows these charlatans to sell their plans because they get their money, and the bs advisors get very good financial incentives upfront.

I'll be cashing out my plan soon, taking a big hit, and investing myself instead of dealing with these IFA wankers. I will warn as many people as possible off this plan.

Anonymous said...

Zurich Vista is long term policy with high hidden charges and need to pay till maturity. In actual scenario, financial advisers not saying about the high surrender penalties, if want to discontinue. In total, this Zurich Vista is waste, and they cheating customers.

Anonymous said...

I also was sold a vista by a financial advisor in Singapore (who left Zurich very soon after) I was told i could withdraw my money after 18 months but when i tried this was not the case and now with over 11 years to go i either have to pay what i can now no longer afford now i have moved home to U.k, I have to make a payment soon an then take another payment holiday all for it to be taken in charges before it matures,i have problems logging into to my portfolio and constant letters stating parts of the portfolio have stopped or changed, which as a non financial expert,i do not understand my options. They have ignored my the part of my emails where i say i was miss sold this Vista.
Now i see Zurich have pulled out of Singapore, Did the Government finally make a stand against them? the full details of penalties and losing 90% of my investment should i withdraw before 189 years should have been made clearer, i was told n problem only locked in for 18 months, i guess i am lucky that i could only afford the minimum payments to start with, and have not lost 100,000 +

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