Tapping the Mic: Why Specialized Podcasts Are Crucial to Selecting Investment Migration Programs
By Simon Butler
At the mercy of economic vicissitudes that have led to program closures and tweaks (see Ireland and Portugal, respectively), investment migration—i.e., EB-5, or the residency-by-investment (“RBI”) and citizenship-by-investment (“CBI”) spaces—may seem like a gamble to investors seeking viable international living. But guidance from an oft-overlooked source, investment-migration podcasts, might be just the thing to hone one’s understanding of the options before choosing a particular country … especially given the fact that these audio (and sometimes video) series frequently uncover critical insights that may not be communicated otherwise.
“Information on local laws, tax obligations, regulatory compliance, and other subjects may not be readily available online, or this content might appear on government websites in languages unknown to or difficult to translate for investors,” said Mona Shah, Esq., Managing Partner of Mona Shah and Associates Global (“MSA Global”), whose long-running podcast EB-5 Investment Voice (along with sibling podcast Global Investment Voice) has been a staple in the industry for eight years. “The right podcast, with the right experts, can furnish clarifications on these and other issues to prospective RBI- and CBI-program applicants, who need to supplement the advice supplied by legal counsel with research of their own.”
Choosing the Right Podcast
Selecting a podcast for accurate, up-to-date RBI and CBI research, however, is not as simple as it sounds. Although many such series provide helpful information, they vary greatly in terms of the quality, provenance, and delivery of the revelations provided.
“A good podcast not only must be informative, but it also must be engaging—otherwise, it won’t resonate,” noted Shah, adding that the lion’s share of podcasts in this sector has a “TED Talk-like” format in which the host stiffly explains the application processes, legal complexities, financial requirements, and other facets without elaborating on the subtext or implications. “If the host sounds like a stolid newscaster or seems unprepared, the message may be lost. While podcasters need not be flippant, a dose of informality can turn what plays as a didactic webinar into a lively, rewarding session.”
A Mix of Substance and Style
Style, of course, is not everything. MSA Global Partner Rebecca S. Singh, Esq., who co-hosts EB-5 Investment Voice and Global Investment Voice (which focuses on international investment-migration issues) with Shah, explained that a host or guest without germane credentials also can be a turnoff to investors seeking illumination on specific issues. Furthermore, a podcast that just reiterates content accessible elsewhere is not as edifying as one that sheds light on RBI/CBI mandates that are unclear.
“It’s not enough to merely regurgitate information that’s already out there,” said Singh, remarking that podcasts using this strategy are as feckless as an anchor on TV reading headlines from a newspaper. “Some kind of added value needs to be brought to the table, whether it’s a new angle on the subject or a hot take. Analysis is at the heart of the RBI/CBI podcast—do that properly, and you’ll get eyeballs.”
Regulation and Personalization
Unfortunately, properly done RBI- and CBI-focused podcasts are few and far between. Nuri Katz, Founder of Antigua- based Apex Capital Partners (“Apex”)—a full-service advisory firm that specializes in investment consulting and wealth management for a multinational, high-net-worth clientele—observed that most podcasts in the arena are “very personalized around the owners of the companies” … and the parties creating these shows are often unregulated. Katz, whose company launched the first episode of its Borderless Wealth Podcast this month, said he “didn’t want to create a cult of personality”; instead, he aims to demonstrate the expertise of his staff.
“Most people who promote on the Internet … are what we call ‘talking heads’ who are promoters but not legally entitled to represent clients in immigration matters,” said Katz, remarking that “you don’t really see who the people [in the company] are.” As such, the audience may not get a sense of the firm’s full capabilities. “We want to show we know what we’re talking about,” he noted.
Having the proper credentials is one way to get this message across. As Apex is licensed by various governments—including those of Caribbean countries such as Antigua, St. Kitts, Dominica, and St. Lucia—to represent clients in the RBI and CBI industry, the company’s new podcast already has the foundation for an authoritative perspective. “We want to be very clear about the difference between working with a regulated entity versus a non-regulated entity,” said Katz.
Perhaps the most daunting challenge to investors researching RBI/CBI via podcasts is finding one that reflects their specific questions and concerns. The most long-lived podcasts in the area, such as the aforementioned EB-5 Investment Voice, continually produce unique content while showcasing a broad away of topics, along with luminaries from both inside and outside the industry.
“We’ve covered everything in the global-migration space from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the CBI industry to the reopening of programs such as the one in Quebec,” said Shah. “As we also cover EB-5 in our podcast, we’ve earned a reputation for a well-rounded, comprehensive approach to our subjects while cementing our reputation as subject-matter experts.”
Those are essential ingredients for a “destination podcast,” explained Singh, adding that the source of the information being provided must be trusted as well. “A podcast hosted by a ‘Joe Schmo’ who has minimal experience in the RBI/CBI sector, holds a position suggesting a lack of credentials, or is affiliated with a company or blog that is little-known or not active in the area won’t have the credibility of a more established podcast featuring highly qualified hosts. So you’ve got to know your stuff—and investors listening to the podcast should know that your know your stuff.”
Podcast guests should know their stuff, too, and showcasing notable personalities who can speak to the effects and implications of immigrant-investor programs in various areas helps enhance visibility. For example, EB-5 Investment Voice has hosted guests ranging from iconic activist Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. to IIUSA Executive Director Aaron Grau, whose organization serves as the voice of the EB-5 sector.
“That gives us a leg up on the competition,” noted Shah. “Some podcasts just feature one person reading from a script. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it’s less interactive than an unscripted or semiscripted podcast with an outstanding special guest—especially one with whom the host has a rapport.”
Guests on the Borderless Wealth Podcast, which will host experts outside Katz’s company as well as inside, will have the opportunity to address numerous topics, some of which may be tangential to RBI/CBI. “There’s a reason people do these programs, and we want to address those reasons as well,” said Katz. “Not just ‘this is the program—do this investment, do that investment,’ but ‘why are you considering this … altogether’? Is it taxes, is it lifestyle?”
Exploring the Issues
Such considerations will merely be a sampling of many that will be covered in the ongoing conversations. “I think we’re going to be able to provide information about lifestyle, about what is driving people to do these programs and … what are they looking at,” Katz said. “Are they looking at security for their kids, are they concerned about the political situation in this country or that country?”
Highlighting a broad range of issues will help the Borderless Wealth Podcast stand out from the pack. “We’re going to talk about politics, we’re going to talk about business,” said Katz. “We talked about the history of these programs. We’re going to have a lot of different topics around the issue.”
Prepared But Not Rehearsed
These topics are sure to be incorporated organically into the podcasts. As such, proper preparation is critical, and having a game plan is a necessity. For instance: To get ready for each episode of EB-5 Investment Voice and EB-5 Global Investment Voice, Shah uses an outline of topics and questions to draw ideas from.
“You want to sound prepared, but you don’t want to sound rehearsed,” she said. “Guests sometimes go off on interesting tangents that are worth following up on. So a savvy podcaster will build on that by asking smart, spur-of-the-moment questions relating to these asides while also remaining cognizant of the need to follow the show’s plan … which in our case is the outline.”
“We keep our podcast moving,” added Singh. “A host who ‘um’s and uh’s’ a lot or doesn’t let guests speak or is prone to awkward silences isn’t conducting the program correctly. There has to be a flow, or you’ll lull your audience to sleep.”
Katz divulged that he and/or his team discuss what they want to cover before the episode, but there is no specific script to follow—and that is not going to change. “We want to be informal, we want to be real, and that’s why we’re not scripted,” he said, pointing to the need to be “human and lifelike” on the show.
Shah agreed. “People will return to the podcasts they like,” she said. “Be authentic on yours while providing outstanding content that no one else has, and chances are your show will succeed.”