Audrey Tcherkoff is the Middle East chief executive and chairman of Robert Wan, the jewellery house that specialises in black Tahitian pearls. Ms Tcherkoff, who is originally from France, moved to Dubai five years ago to take up the position and says the UAE's rich pearling heritage has made it easier to do business here.
How would you describe your financial journey so far?
I have always been ambitious and have worked hard to reach my goals. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and my grandfather came to be my role model and mentor. He was not one to let anyone handle the reins of his life and he demonstrated that by building one of the largest French industrial firms. My grandfather has definitely inspired my own personal financial journey and was a constant reminder to me to never take anything for granted in life and to always fight my own battles; to build my own worth. Having graduated from business school in Paris, I was determined to enter the luxury goods industry. I started with Yves Saint Laurent in Paris and cut my teeth with the famous French designer Jean Claude Jitrois. I subsequently arrived in Dubai at the beginning of my financial curve, with the amazing challenges of opening up Robert Wan in the Middle East. My five years here have allowed me to discover just how easy it is to spend and how much discipline goes into saving. I've been fortunate enough to achieve a degree of financial freedom from my efforts over the past five years and I am now faced with investment decisions.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I am a spender, but trapped in a saver's body. My five years in this region have pushed me to discover how easy it is to spend and the volume of discipline needed to save for future investments.
What's your philosophy regarding money?
It takes not having any money to not take your financial freedom for granted.
The UAE has a long history of pearling. Do you find that the country's heritage makes it easier to do business here?
Certainly. Historically, the Middle East has served as the world's hub in the trade of fine-quality natural pearls. Now, almost 100 years later, we are delighted to collaborate to revitalise the region's cultural traditions.
What do people need to know about pearls before taking the leap and buying?
The pearl is the only gem that is produced from a living animal. They are created by nature, which, in itself, is truly magical. They have always been the jewels of the queens and kings, emperors and royals. Pearls are timeless pieces; irrespective of shapes, sizes or colours. My advice would be to always buy your pearls from trustworthy and reputed names in order to ensure exquisite quality.
What is your favourite pearl?
My favourite pearl is the baroque. The irregularity of their shape is what makes them perfectly organic. My favourite colour is peacock, which is a wonderful green tone. After six years in the industry, I am still amazed to discover how nature can encapsulate so many wonderful colours and shades in one single pearl.
Did you make any financial mistakes along the way?
I haven't yet. The financial crisis that hit a couple of years ago was a warning in itself. The collapse of the 2008 banking system was an absolute shock and a wake-up call. I don't believe in speculative investment because it may go down either way and if you're unlucky, it is extremely possible to lose all your investments; something that has happened to a few people I know. My role as CEO does involve some risk-taking, but I definitely don't take too many risks where savings are concerned.
Do you believe in planning for the future?
I do now because I recently got engaged and building a family makes you realise how important it is to plan for your future.
Is money important to you?
In today's world, money allows us to meet our responsibilities for our lives and our families. It is also an important element for growing your business and striving for successes out of your reach.
What is your idea of financial freedom?
To reach a point in life where you always have a choice.
What do you enjoy spending money on?
At the end of the day, I'm a woman and I love buying shoes. But what makes me truly happy is to spend for the people I love.