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Many factors can affect performance of your investment

On your side: Keren Bobker answers questions on bond investments and maternity leaves.

I invested in an insurance company bond via a broker over a year ago and have now looked at the value. My money is invested in three funds in this plan and when I checked the returns for other funds online, the returns on them over the past year appeared far more than I have made on my investment. Why is this? CN, Dubai

This investment was into a single premium investment bond via an offshore insurance company. Such plans have ongoing charges as well as initial fees. These will vary between plans and the charging structure selected, but as it is expensive to run investment funds, there will always be ongoing fees. The initial costs depend on the level of commission taken by the broker and other initial charges from the insurance company; this will affect the annual return, particularly in the first year. Actual performance will never be identical to quoted returns as these are usually shown gross and all investments, whether direct (if available) or via a bond, will have annual charges. The exact timing of an investment also makes a difference, as well as the underlying structure of the fund as it may be directly into the main mutual fund itself or into an insurance company mirror fund that mimics performance. To see if the investment is performing as expected, as well as considering headline returns, take a look at the illustration that was provided when it was taken out as this will show a predicted return at specified growth rates at the end of each year, but should also take the charges and fees into consideration. The figure after the first 12 months is usually only a small amount more than the initial investment as set up costs must be recouped, but this will also vary depending on market performance, funds selected and how well it is managed. It is impossible to predict how markets will perform so diversity can reduce risk as well as ensure you do not miss out on growth. Depending on how monies are invested, three funds may not be sufficient, or other options may be better. These insurance company plans are designed for medium to long term investment and your broker should review the funds at least annually.

My husband, daughter and I lived in the UAE for eight years and during this time, we purchased a property in Abu Dhabi. As I did not have a bank account, everything was in my husband's name. My husband is now in Qatar, and as we separated some months ago, my daughter and I are in Australia although we are New Zealand citizens. I would like to know if I have any legal rights to half the property proceeds when the apartment sells as would be the case in New Zealand, as I have very little in the way of savings. AE, Australia

This is a very complex situation and I sought advice from Mary Barton, a lawyer at James Berry & Associates in Dubai, who says: "If this lady can produce evidence of funds paid by her to the purchase of the property in Abu Dhabi, such as bank transfer/deposit slips then she may have a civil claim that she could bring in Abu Dhabi. She may also be able to persuade the Sharia Court to consider what should happen to the family home that both she and her husband invested time and effort into, but both of those options would require her to instruct a local Abu Dhabi advocate and provide him/her with her power of attorney. UAE law does provide for the Sharia Court to have jurisdiction to deal with family issues when the defendant lives in another country, but only in very limited circumstances and the fact that this lady and the child are now resident in Australia may well negate the court's jurisdiction. I do not think that a Qatari Sharia Court would deal with property issues when the property is located in Abu Dhabi, but this lady may be able to bring a maintenance claim in Qatar, depending on her specific circumstances. Generally with this type of situation, offsetting an interest in one asset against increased interest in another - that is within easier reach - would be the way to proceed. Alternatively, obtaining punitive home country orders against the husband or looking at who the husband's employer is: where their head office is and so forth, may give the opportunity to enforce a maintenance order under a reciprocal agreement by some form of attachment of earnings." This shows the importance of married women protecting their interests where Sharia law may apply and I suggest that AE seeks appropriate legal advice.

I am due to go on maternity leave at the end of the summer and while I want to return to work, I would like to take some more time off. Is there anything in the law that allows me to do this? MP, Abu Dhabi

Article 30 of the UAE Labour Law states that maternity leave is available for up to 45 days, but this may be extended to up to 100 days if ill health, as confirmed by a doctor, prevents a woman from returning to work. If she wants to take more time off, which would be unpaid, it will be at the discretion of her employer and she must seek written permission in advance.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com

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