Interview: Expat entrepreneur stranded in his home country

Published on 2020-09-24 at 08:46 by Anne-Lise Mty
French entrepreneur Fabrice Le Dantec-Gaussen and his family had everything planned. Their flight to Mauritius, where they were meant to start their new lives, was booked for the 21st of March, but the borders closed on the 19th. The wealth management expert for expats gives us an insight into what life is like right now for him and his family.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am Fabrice Le Dantec-Gaussen and I am married to Kristina. We have two children and we've been expats for more than fifteen years. We are originally from France.

My story is that of my meeting with Kristina: after a first chunk of life in the South of France, I married the woman of my life, who had already traveled the world and we decided to live abroad together.

After completing my studies, we set off for South East Asia. We spent two years in the Philippines where our daughter Ilawan was born. We had our son Sweban the following year in Brittany, the only year we've spent in France since getting married. Our children have mostly lived on the African continent: Seven years in Madagascar, then five years in Botswana and finally two years in Kenya… Years during which I acquired a solid international experience as a business manager and financial projects in the telecommunications, infrastructure and renewable energy sectors.

When did you start planning for your expatriation?

It has been carefully crafted for a few years now. But at the end of last year things became clearer, I began a new professional adventure...

What made you want to settle in Mauritius?

The openmindedness and the different cultures above all... We chose Mauritius for its schools, its economic potential and its quality of life. Our children are English-speaking, and the island will open the door to many universities, both French-speaking, English-speaking and international.

My extensive knowledge of expatriate issues acquired during my years abroad allows me today to set up on my own business and provide personalized and tailor-made advice to the French community as an advisor in wealth management. Mauritius is a personal, family and professional situation.

Hoow ready are you to make your big move?

On Thursday March 19, 2020, we learnt that the borders would be closed undefinitely beginning the next day ... Our plane tickets were for the Saturday March 21st with Air Mauritius. I had obtained my work permit in February and started my work the previous fortnight. The house is rented, the lease signed, the down payments made, school was meant to start on March 23rd!

We were therefore in the terminal phase of this expatriation. But the year 2020 and the Covid-19 have decided otherwise.

What did you do next?

We learned that Air Mauritius was placed under receivership, then the extension of the border closure. We remained confined for four months in Kenya ... Most of our business, including the car, being sold we had to transition to camping mode, the children relying on e-learning. Thanks to a repatriation flight from the European Union in July, we returned to France where we are staying with parents or friends. On the professional side, webinars and the telephone allowed us to get started.

Do you think you will review your project in one way or another?

We hope to be able to reach Mauritius soon where other challenges await us. In addition to the health crisis, there is an economic crisis ... Being self-employed in this period is not easy, but we are looking much further than this year. The Covid postponed our project for more than six months, but it is a long-term project. Joining the Indian Ocean and Mauritius to settle there for several years remains our desire. Being able to advise French expatriates in Mauritius on their private management remains my line of sight, being on the spot is necessary. I thank our friends, our family for their support, also the school which has shown great professionalism and flexibility in our changing situations.

How are you and your family coping with this situation?

It is a delicate and formative period which teaches us to put into perspective and live together and live the present. We took advantage of the lockdown to play badminton, to watch films as a family.

We are looking forward to new days and new horizons ... For the moment, living in France in the middle of summer is truly satisfying after a difficult lockdown in Kenya. All this confirms our interest in this project towards Mauritius, hoping that the future also confirms this.

You are an entrepreneur. How is this COVID-19 crisis particularly affecting you?

The consequences of COVID are direct and particularly affect me in several ways ... First of all, the travel restrictions and the difficulty of meeting clients face to face, of prospecting face to face. At the same time, the use of web and social media tools is becoming necessary, but in the wealth manager job, direct contact is essential in order to know and understand each other in order to give the appropriate advice to the present situation; social distancing doesn't make that easy.

Then the decline in activity was immediate, confidence in the shaken financial system, market volatility is not helping the recovery of investments, and the shock wave of COVID remains to be measured. There was also an immediate impact on real estate and financial investments. The volatility of the stock markets complicates analyzes and recommendations. Now that the health crisis is decorrelated from the political and economic crises, it is easier, but during the months of March and April it directly affected us and we had to respond to the concerns of customers.

However, the COVID effect has also created a bubble of savers and precautions. In my sector we are going through the crisis calmly because our products are a guarantee of quality and foresight. The SCPIs in particular are keeping good returns and they have weathered this crisis knowing how to communicate clearly on the impact in collection and reassure the partners by paying their rents. The breach of leases are low and the objectives will generally be met for 2020. Finally, the tax aspect on my activity is direct; Personally for the declaration of activity when there is not necessarily one, and for our customers in delicate situations due to the lock-down, this must be watched closely to make the most of it to their advantage, to use the new tax rules formulated during the crisis, such as the advantages currently granted in terms of inheritance and transmission of assets to your children.

The crisis is impacting everyone, no one is spared and this has strengthened our advisory strategy, which remains foresight and diversification.

How to adapt to the post-COVID 19 era when you are an entrepreneur?

Beyond the barrier gestures that we always respect, as entrepreneurs we are always in uncertainty and we are learning to move forward in a blur ... The Covid accentuates this trend! This allows us to develop our spirit of initiative and innovation to set up plans B. We must demonstrate our ability to be informed, follow new laws, be flexible, modern… The Webinar aspect and links with the various social networks on the web or associations (chamber of commerce type, associations of French expatriates, etc.) allow us to continue working.

Moreover, for Mauritius, I plan to share our services and expertise with the community and we will present our investment and protection solutions to you very soon via an exclusive webinar or the entire community of expatriates will be able to ask the questions which concern them and find appropriate answers to their wishes adapted to cross this crisis… Whether it is for a repatriation towards the metropolis or an expatriation in the Indian Ocean.

You are also in wealth management for expatriates. What advice for expats and future expats these days?

The first is to have good health insurance and coverage. Foresight is prepared at the time of departure and as early as possible in your expatriate life ... Beyond health, you need to have additional and stable income, as I said, there are solutions that have made their mark. evidence and got through the crisis. I think it's difficult for some expats who lose their jobs or decide to return to France, but above all I think that the crisis is bringing its share of opportunities and new attractive destinations. Mauritius is COVID FREE, it provides a comfortable living environment if you can secure additional income regardless of difficulties in tourism or real estate. In conclusion, I would say that you should not hesitate to take advice from those around you, and that Equance is here to answer you...