Paul Hymers is the financial director of Atlas Corporate Services, a wealth-management company for high-net-worth clients based in Dubai. The Briton, who moved to the UAE two-and-a-half years ago, is also a gym fanatic and was named "Dubai's fittest man" in a fitness contest last summer.
Describe your financial journey so far.
I started working at 14 in my uncle's Italian seafood restaurant. Restaurants are fast-paced and because I was so young, it was very stressful at times. But it taught me the importance of hard work and how vital it is to take pride in what you are doing and get things right the first time. The things I learnt at that age provided the structure for the rest of my career. I work hard and take pride in my job and hope I also lead by example.
Would you describe yourself as a spender or a saver?
I'm happy that the things I want plus the financial obligations I have add up to less than what I get paid. I don't have expensive tastes; I'm not into flash cars. I'm a man of simple pleasures. But I do like to spend on my wife and I like holidays and good food. When you move to Dubai, you want to do something slightly different and we want to travel East as much as possible because we are already seven hours of the way there. We've just come back from South Africa, have recently been to Mauritius and Australia and I'm excited to go to places like China and Japan.
Why did you decide to become an accountant?
The big attraction was having lots of different clients. I could be working on a PLC (Public Limited Company) one day and a small company the next. When I started out in auditing in London in 2000, I had some very interesting clients such as Surrey Country Cricket Club and the band, Queen. However, after four years in audit and all of the travelling that went with it, I just wanted to move to a company and take control of things.
What was your biggest financial challenge?
I had a really tough time when I first moved to London after university. The starting salary was low, the rents in London at the time were really high and I remember going to the cash machine with my debit card and praying that I actually had money to take out. Then there was that sinking feeling at the pit of my stomach when there was nothing there. What it taught me was to invest in myself and believe in myself. There was a lot of pressure and I sometimes doubted whether I was ever going to pass my final exams to become a chartered accountant. I'm proud that in my darkest moment, I stuck with it. It was the second-best thing I've done in my life. The first was to get married.
What do you like to invest in?
Property. I like the idea of land and bricks and tangible things and I think it's important to invest in things that you actually want yourself. I think having a home that you are happy to live in is a really important aspect of life. I've just bought a two-bedroom apartment in Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT) and have property in London.
Why is fitness important to you?
I don't think of myself as being particularly sporty, but I do love fitness and train everyday. The fitness challenge I won was organised by a couple of magazines in June last year. After that, people would introduce me as "Dubai's fittest man", which is ridiculous! They say people who are fitter are more successful and I agree with that because it's discipline; if someone's got discipline in their health, they are more likely to have it in their professional life.
Is money important to you?
Money is important to everyone. The big attraction to Dubai is what it allows people to do and earn and eventually save, so I think everyone here finds money important. I think it's one of the main motivations to move to the Middle East.
What has been your most valuable financial lesson?
When I was 12, my mum went on holiday and put me in charge of the purse strings because she did not trust my dad or brother, who is seven years older, to do simple things like paying bills and shopping. Even though I was the youngest, I was always the most mature and it taught me the responsibility of having money. You have to get things in order; your bills and obligations have to be paid first and you need to plan your money. There's no point getting paid on Friday and spending it all on Saturday.
Do you plan for the future?
Our long-term plan is to stay in Dubai. We like it here and chose to buy an apartment in the Bonnington building in JLT because it's a five-star hotel and they have to maintain a certain standard. Therefore, we are hoping the value of the building does not decline. Then, in two to three years' time, we want to buy a villa and rent out the apartment.