By Caribbean News Now contributor
NEW YORK, USA — Just two months after the release by advisory firm Henley & Partners of its so-called global residence and citizenship programs ranking, which was widely criticised as inaccurate and self-serving by other industry insiders, a newly renamed index published this week by Henley has been described as nothing short of a blatant rip-off of its competitor Arton Capital’s Passport Index.
Formerly known as the Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index, it has been renamed the Henley Passport Index and redesigned to look like its more successful competitor but self-described as “the original and most authoritative passport index published since 2005, with historical data spanning 13 years”.
“Obviously we are flattered by such obvious copying,” said a spokesman for Arton Capital, “even if it is so obvious that they are even using the same names for the tools that rank passports. While we don’t think such duplication of our index terribly helpful, we did see visits to our website almost triple over the past few days, so it would appear the market has already decided which index it prefers.”
One observer suggested that such confusion marketing is the hallmark of an immature industry and Henley would have better served its clients not by renaming and redesigning its moribund visa index, but by introducing a new and innovative piece of research.
Another citizenship consultant noted that, at the end of the day, all such indices are simply marketing pieces for the companies that make them.
“I congratulate Henley for making their index more colourful. Having said that, no one looking at obtaining a second citizenship does so based on a marketing piece. It is a serious choice that includes many very personal factors that simply cannot be laid out in a general index,” said Nuri Katz, president of Apex Capital Partners.
“If in doubt, copy your competitor. It is as if Pepsi suddenly abandoned its blue corporate colours and appeared in red and white cans. It does not do much for an industry that is crying out for sobriety and instead seems to revel in tit-for-tat exercises that benefit nobody,” said another industry executive, adding, “They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
One curious feature of the new Henley index is its website, which displays an initial message that it is “Powered by IATA”. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the trade association for the world’s airlines, representing some 280 airlines or 83% of total air traffic. It supports many areas of aviation activity and helps formulate industry policy on critical aviation issues.
According to Henley, its new global ranking is the only one of its kind that is based on exclusive data from IATA, which it said maintains the world’s largest and most accurate database of travel information.
IATA did not respond to two requests for an explanation and/or comment for publication regarding this, especially addressing a question by industry observers as to whether IATA is now in the business of selling passports.
Henley may be becoming increasingly nervous about its market position, as this week a number of its former executives, including the former CEO Eric Major, former managing partner of Henley’s Caribbean office Christopher Willis, and Jon Green, a former partner of Henley Canada – left the firm to set up their own company, Latitude, in conjunction with Jersey Trust Company as an equity partner. The aim is to offer clients a range of services, including trust, real estate and wealth planning, on a global scale.
Has the new firm perhaps been established with Henley’s blessing, as one industry insider suggested?
Neither Latitude nor Henley responded to a request for background to this apparent exodus from Henley and how, if at all, such departure of senior staff has affected its operations.