Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 14 November 2019

European residents in the UAE cash in on the euro's 10% drop against the dollar

The currency is close to a two-year low as the continent's economy slows

Dubai resident Shaun Faver regularly converts his dirham earnings into euros to support his daughter's university education in the Netherlands. Reem Mohammed/The National
Dubai resident Shaun Faver regularly converts his dirham earnings into euros to support his daughter's university education in the Netherlands. Reem Mohammed/The National

European residents in the UAE with financial commitments in their own countries are taking advantage of the slump in the euro to send money home at favourable rates.

The single European currency has fallen more than 10 per cent against the US dollar over the past 12 months to a near two-year low as the continent's economy slows.

This is good news for expatriates earning dollar-linked UAE dirhams, as their remittances will now travel that much further.

Now I just send money when I have it to hand.

Shaun Faver, Dutch national

If you have expenses in Europe such as children's education fees, servicing a mortgage, or topping up your euro-denominated savings and investments, now is a good time to remit money. It could also be an opportunity to snap up a property in Europe.

Dutch national Shaun Faver, 48, and wife Beverley regularly convert their dirham earnings into euros to support their 21-year-old daughter Christen, who is studying at Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Mr Faver, an air traffic engineer who has been living in the UAE for 20 years, is understandably keen to take advantage of today's favourable exchange rates.

The dirham is pegged to the US dollar and one year ago each $1 would have given him around €0.80. At the time of writing he gets almost €0.89, an extra €90 for each $1,000 transfer, giving him more bang for his buck.

With the rate more favourable at the moment, Mr Faver sends money whenever he has it to hand. Reem Mohammed/The National
With the rate more favourable at the moment, Mr Faver sends money whenever he has it to hand. Reem Mohammed/The National

Mr Faver is delighted to see his dirhams go further and is transferring the necessary funds the moment he receives his salary.

“After pay day, I used to wait a few days to see if exchange rates improved but usually I ended getting a worse rate instead. Now I just send money when I have it to hand," he says. "The ups and downs average out, over the year.”

How you send money is just as important as when you send it, and Mr Faver shuns mainstream banks due to their poor exchange rates. “Also, when you place your order they don’t always tell you the exact rate you will get, leaving you at the mercy of currency swings in the interim," he adds.

He is impressed by the rate he gets from Dubai-based remittances service UAE Exchange. “If you send sufficiently large sums on a regular basis you are eligible for its Club Exclusive loyalty programme, which gives you personalised service and preferential rates.”

This allows him to lock into an exchange rate or set a future price point, so when the exchange rate hits that it will automatically make the trade.

It is a mark of how poorly the euro has been performing lately that it is even falling against the Brexit-stricken pound.

Fawad Razaqzada, technical analyst at foreign currency specialists Forex.com in London, says both currencies have been hit by political uncertainty. “With Brexit extended until October 31, the uncertainty is going to drag on and this will keep the euro under pressure.”

Many Eurozone countries are also struggling economically, with Italy slipping into recession for the third time in a decade, and German manufacturing contracting for four consecutive months.

Across the eurozone, inflation fell to just 1.4 per cent in March and Mr Razaqzada says the European Central Bank "is in no hurry to hike interest rates, hitting demand for the euro".

The analyst says there is a chance the single currency could recover later this year if the ECB talks up the prospect of an interest rate hike.

Jamil Khammu, director for the GCC region at foreign currency transfer service Moneycorp, is more optimistic about the euro's prospects.

He reckons the Brexit delay could work in its favour by further reducing the likelihood of a no-deal UK withdrawal. “Those considering sending money back to Europe should act swiftly, as any further uplift in mood could weaken the value of dollar-denominated assets relative to the euro.”

Mr Khammu says now may be a good time to talk to a currency exchange service about setting up a “forward contract”, which would allow you lock into an attractive exchange for up to two years, protecting you from adverse currency movements in this time.

Typically you will have to put down a deposit, then pay a regular monthly sum for your chosen term.

Maged Villegas Hassanain, a Danish citizen born in Egypt, regularly sends UAE earnings to eurozone member Spain, his wife’s home country and likes to take advantage of favourable currency swings when sending smaller, regular sums.

“I typically use either UAE Exchange or Al Ansari Exchange because they offer good exchange rates, especially on larger sums," he says, adding that while almost every bank and exchange house advertises low or zero commission, what really counts is the spread; this is the difference between the price you pay when buying a currency and the price you get when selling. “Sometimes it is huge and you can lose a lot of money if you do not choose your currency transfer service carefully," he adds.

As a private fund manager and investor based in Dubai, Mr Hassanain recommends a more sophisticated strategy for those planning to send a larger one-off sum who want to benefit from today's attractive exchange rate.

He takes the example of somebody sending €100,000 to purchase a house in Spain “not right away, but in three months, once you have received your bonus or commission". Mr Hassanain says you can protect yourself against unwelcome currency shifts in the interim by using an online broker that allows you to trade options, such as Interactive Brokers and SwissQuote.

A simple “vanilla” option gives you the right – although not the obligation – to buy or sell currency pairs at a set rate within a pre-agreed period. At time of writing, €1 would cost you $1.13. “In this case, you could agree to buy €100,000 for $113,000 in three months’ time.”

You have to pay a non-refundable premium, which Mr Hassanain estimates will cost $500 in this case. “That's a risk worth paying if you fear you won’t see such a good exchange rate for a long time.”

If the price holds at $1.13, Mr Hassanain says you will be happy. “You simply transfer your money as planned. All you lost was $500.”

If the US dollar strengthens further so that €100,000 only costs you $110,000, you will be even happier. “You simply buy euros at the new higher rate which will cost you $3,000 less, minus your $500 premium.”

Mr Hassanain adds that remitters will even benefit if the dollar weakens so a spot transfer would cost $115,000. “You have saved $2,000 by locking in, again, minus that $500.”

This may be too complicated for most regular transactions but when sending larger sums it can be worth talking to a broker about hedging your bets this way.

Demos Kyprianou, a chartered business psychologist and board member of SimplyFI.org, says he does not let currency movements dictate when he remits money to his native Cyprus.  Leslie Pableo for The National 
Demos Kyprianou, a chartered business psychologist and board member of SimplyFI.org, says he does not let currency movements dictate when he remits money to his native Cyprus.  Leslie Pableo for The National 

Demos Kyprianou, a Dubai resident and chartered business psychologist is happy when currency movements swing in his favour but says that doesn’t affect his decision to remit money to his native Cyprus.

He says you can drive yourself mad trying to time the currency market. “You might see a drop and say that now is a good time to buy only to see another big drop a couple of months later, and then you think that you should have waited.”

As a member of personal finance and investing club SimplyFI, Mr Kyprianou has seen plenty of evidence that nobody can predict currency or stock market movements with any degree of consistency. “The illusion that we can persists despite our appalling track record.”

Even the experts cannot agree where the dollar/euro exchange rate will move next.

The simplest thing to do when spotting a favourable rate is to seize the day and send money. You never know how long that rate will last.

Updated: April 21, 2019 03:08 PM

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