Varun Sharma was previously Global Head of Partnerships for the Estonian Government’s innovative e-Residency program. He also established Estonia’s Trade & Investment Division in the Indian subcontinent during his tenure at the Estonian Embassy in India. He has represented Estonia as a speaker at the World Economic Forum and presently runs a business consulting practice to advise next-gen technology companies.
As an investor — HNW or otherwise — diversification of risk and maximization of returns are key. The onset of the pandemic has indeed highlighted a new dimension determining investor interests: health and wellness. Most European nations boast strong universal healthcare systems and there is a general inclination in the region towards conserving nature, reducing emissions, eating well, and exercising to maintain wellness. Complemented by the fact that the world’s rich are both getting younger and living longer, this resonates with their focus on balanced living, health, spirituality, mindfulness, and so on.
Having access to developed European nations and the Schengen Area has been a saving grace for many, and one might even say, a perfect solution during the pandemic. Although European economic centers and major cities were indeed severely hit early in the pandemic owing to independent measures taken by different member states, it became evident quite quickly which regions were safe and which were not.
Switzerland and Austria have emerged as the top two RCBI countries in Europe in the Investment Migration Programs Health Risk Assessment, in 3rd and 4th position overall, respectively. While most European investment migration countries scored highly in healthcare readiness, Switzerland scored highest of all in this parameter, while Austria was second overall in terms of government efficiency of risk management. Both countries have mandatory universal health insurance that guarantees access to essential healthcare for all citizens. They also implemented effective policy to contain the spread of Covid-19 and their contact tracing technology benefit from effective governance.
Europe has been and continues to be one of the most sought-after regions when it comes to residence- and citizenship-by-investment programs. The EU’s unique structure, policies such as the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA), the single customs union, having Schengen Area access to 26 diverse countries from Greece to Finland to Portugal and even Switzerland, make it clear why being a European resident or citizen is highly advantageous, especially to high-net-worth (HNW) individuals.
Investors today are looking for developed infrastructure and environments that support their health and wellness needs, besides being able to benefit from financial and tax incentives that simultaneously support fostering their monetary wealth. The importance of mobility and freedom to travel has also risen through a new form of nomadism that has seen investors pursuing escapes from lockdowns and high-risk Covid zones to resume a more healthy and productive lifestyles that resemble their pre-Covid ‘normal’.
Ultra-HNW investors prefer Austria and Malta’s citizenship-by-investment and citizenship-by-naturalization options, while other investors are drawn to the more affordable residence-by-investment programs European countries such as Portugal, Greece, and Spain offer. Several developing European countries, such as Estonia and Croatia, offer digital nomad visas, and more countries in Europe and across the world may follow suit, as they prepare to recover from the pandemic by augmenting economic activity and bringing in specialized talent and investments to propel their economies forward.
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