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Currency Converter and Foreign Exchange

One of the issues you will be facing as an expatriate living in the UK is the management of your foreign exchange. This is a matter which is often underestimated by expatriates. You need to be very aware of currency matters because these can have a significant impact on the value of your estate.

The currency used to make payments in the UK is the British Pound (often shortened to GBP or £). As an expatriate this is a problem for you because GBP is not the currency of your country of origin and, over time, the exchange rate between GBP and your own currency will fluctuate. The following tool will allow you to understand the current indicative level of the exchange rate between GBP and your own country’s currency. 


The good news is that in the UK expatriates will find professionals that specialise in the management of foreign currencies that can assist them. However, before going into this, let’s analyse this issue about currency in greater detail.

If you have assets and savings in one currency (say GBP) and the currency of your main expenses is not the same (say USD), there is a risk that if GBP depreciates against USD you will be worse off. This is translated in practical cases in the following paragraphs.

As an expatriate there are two main questions you need to ask yourself:

Question: Are you planning to stay in the UK for a few years or permanently?

Answer: If you are planning to stay in the UK only a few years (this will normally be the case for most expatriates) your reference currency will not be GBP. If you are planning to settle in the UK, instead, GBP will probably be your reference currency for the future.

Question: Are you earning GBP or another currency?

Answer: If you are paid in GBP and you are planning to leave the UK in a few years (this will normally be the case for most expatriates), when it comes to repatriation of your wealth, you will face the risk linked to the fluctuation of the value of GBP against your reference currency. Conversely, if you are paid in a currency different from GBP while living in the UK, you will encounter the problem of constant fluctuation between the GBP and the currency you earn leading to potential difficulties in setting out budgets for simple living expenses.


Let’s take the most common example of the typical expatriate: let’s say that John, a US citizen, is transferred by his employer from New York to London for a five year expatriate assignment. Before his move overseas John would like to move some personal wealth to London to help him get started in a new Country. For the five years John is in London, he will be paid in GBP. In five years time, John will go back to the US. John’s reference currency is the US Dollar (USD) because he is planning to go back to the US after five years and he has most of his assets (house, savings, pension fund, etc.) held in USD.
Six weeks prior to the move, John is thinking about sending GBP 15,000 to his UK bank account so that he can pay for living expenses, the deposit and rent on a house and car rental. John does not need the GBP until he is in the UK but thinking about when to buy his GBP is very important. The exchange rate may be 1.40 now (GBP 15,000 would cost USD 21,000) but in 6 weeks, just before the move it may be 1.70 (costing him USD 25,500). John could potentially save himself USD 4,500 just by planning his move in advance.
At the beginning of his expatriate assignment, John forecasts he will be paid GBP 50,000 a year and will have expenses for GBP 30,000 a year, leaving him with net savings of GBP 20,000 a year. At the end of his 5 years expatriate assignment he foresees having savings of GBP 100,000 (20,000 x 5 = 100,000). At the current exchange rate (say 1.60 USD per each GBP), by the end of his expatriate assignment John expects to go back to the US with the equivalent of USD 160,000 (100,000 x 1.60 = 160,000). What will happen if the exchange rate falls to 1.40 USD per each GBP? John’s UK savings will be equivalent to USD 140,000 only (100,000 x 1.40 = 140,000).
In the example above John has lost USD 20,000. It could also have happened the opposite way (say if the exchange rate had gone to USD 1,80 per each GBP) and John could instead have been USD 20,000 better off.
The point is that, normally, as an expatriate you do not want to be exposed to the risk of fluctuation of currency. You would normally want to plan your future trying to avoid unnecessary risks.

How can you manage currency issues?

In the UK you will find several currency brokers specialising in foreign exchange that are very much aware of the currency related issues faced by expatriates. It is always important to ensure that any firm you contact for advice is duly supervised by the Financial Services Authority (the UK financial regulator). To this end you can verify the FSA register of authorised firms on their website.

A foreign exchange specialist will be able to suggest a strategy for the management of your foreign exchange needs. This may include targeting specific rates of exchange, monitoring the markets on your behalf and changing currency if the market reaches your target level or, alternatively, they might suggest fixing an exchange rate for up to 12 months.
Expats Plaza has teamed-up with Personal FX to bring expatriates information about the complex subject of foreign exchange. In this page you will find information provided directly by Personal FX and links to Personal FX’s newsletter. You will also be able to view a demo of how the Personal FX website works.   
Top tips for buying and selling currency
by Neal Hartley, Relationship Manager at Personal FX
  • Start to understand the foreign currency you are buying or selling.

  • Register with a specialist foreign exchange company, such as Personal FX, early in the process. It's free and you’re under no obligation to use us.

  • Ensure you have the right money and that it’s easily transferable for when you’re ready to make your payment or transfer.

  • If you have a specific budget in terms of the currency or the sterling amount, tell us in advance so we can plan to meet your need.

  • If you want the money changed and transferred to you ahead of paying an agent, developer or solicitor for example, consider opening your own separate overseas currency account.

  • For ongoing regular transfers, such as overseas mortgage payments, consider setting up a Regular Payment Plan to make things easier and less time-consuming.

 About Personal FX
Based in the heart of the City of London, we are a professional, regulated company specialising in buying and selling foreign currency. We have worked with thousands of people like you who are looking for help and guidance in managing their international foreign exchange requirements.

But don’t just take our word for it. 75% of our new customers have been referred to us so we must be doing something right!

Personal FX is a division of Global Reach Partners Limited and registered for Money Laundering Regulations and Money Services Business at Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs. Registration No: 12140164 Registered by the FSA under the Payment Services directive 2009.
Vital Statistics:
  • Segregated client accounts held with Lloyds and Barclays

  • Minimum transfer of £250.00

  • Regulated by HM Revenue and Customs as a Money Services Business

  • Supervised by the Financial Services Authority under the Payment Services Directive 2009

Buying Currency with Personal FX:
  • Open a trading facility with us - there is no cost or obligation involved in doing so.

  • Discuss your requirements and timescales with a dedicated Currency Consultant.

  • From our recommendations, agree an exchange rate and the right transaction type for you.

  • Immediate confirmation of what we have agreed will be sent to you via email.

  • Transfer your funds to our segregated client account.

  • Instruct us where to transfer your money.

  • Receive your funds in the designated account and currency.

  • Complimentary confirmation of your payment will be sent to you via email.




Expats Plaza is the website for the Expatriates living in the UK