Jennifer Mathias is the chief financial officer for Coutts, the British private bank, a role that saw her visit the UAE last month to launch the bank's new office in the DIFC and attend the Coutts Polo at the Palace event in Abu Dhabi.
Investing in the aesthetic pleasures
Jennifer Mathias is the chief financial officer for Coutts, the British private bank. Ms Mathias, who lives in London, started her career at Lloyds TSB before joining Coutts last March - a role that saw her visit the UAE last month to launch the bank's new office in the Dubai International Financial Centre and attend the Coutts Polo at the Palace event in Abu Dhabi.
Describe your financial journey so far.
I grew up on a dairy farm in west Wales, so commercial exposure came at a young age - from how much you got paid for your milk through to how much you paid for food for the cows. It was part of my DNA. It was a tough upbringing; hard work was at the core of it and I do think that being exposed to that brought out the interest in business management - ensuring you manage your finances really well struck home with me before the age of 10. At school, I was really interested in the business side and numbers. I then pursued a degree in accounting and finance; I thought it would give me a flavour of what it's like and then I could follow the accountancy profession through with the banking sector.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I'm both actually. I like to know there is a reserve and then I'll go through phases of thinking, 'Actually, I deserve to enjoy some of this rather than constantly thinking about rainy days'. I flip between spender and saver, but it's always a very safe and stable call just to protect my independence.
What is your money philosophy?
Treat it as your own. It's there to be enjoyed, but with limits.
What has been your most valuable financial lesson?
To take more risk. I had a very cautious entry into the property market in my mid-20s. I bought one property and then the second, but I could have geared up and made a bigger return. I took lessons from that. It was that time in my life when I could get my money working for me a lot better rather than if it just sat in a current account.
Why did you go into banking?
The most important day of the year growing up on a farm was the day the bank manager came to lunch. He was treated with such respect and it caused mayhem. I'd have to sit there and listen in, but I observed how he helped my parents think about things in different ways. When I then qualified and was looking for graduate roles, there was something about banking that felt value added - I'd seen it in practice in my early years. I wanted the commercial side as opposed to being somebody's auditor, going in and checking the numbers. I wanted to be on the other side of the fence, actually generating business results through numbers.
What do you like to invest in?
In the last year or so, I've moved into a phase of spend, as opposed to save, investing in the aesthetic pleasures in life, which for me is polo. I started playing in March 2011. I was on holiday in Argentina and thought, 'I can't not go to a polo farm'. I went, got hooked, met someone who was learning as well who kept my number and got in touch back in London to say he had found a small club. That was it. Once you're on that horse at the level that they are trained to, it's so different to riding any other horse. It's the competitiveness, the teamwork and the sheer bravery when you're out on a full pitch doing 30mph on horseback, riding one handed with a mallet in the other. It gets me out and active and it's the adrenalin - a different adrenalin than I get at work.
Is money important to you?
It is. I'm a single woman; I've got to look after myself and it allows me to do the things I want and to share it with friends and family who aren't in the same situation as me. That's where I get the greatest pleasure - introducing them to things that they may not think about doing. It's great to see those lights light up in someone's eyes; it gives them confidence to look into it themselves.
Do you bank with a private bank?
I am a client of Coutts; I have to experience the product and what it is our clients experience. I've got quite a simple relationship with my banker because I've been focusing on the role for the last six months. The next six months I am going to test the Coutts investment side and get my wealth management transferred over to compare the offerings. I am a supporter of private banking; I come across a lot of people who do not want to go down the automated low-touch route. They run businesses and phone me up and say, 'Can someone just do what they did for me 20 years ago. I'm an entrepreneur and I'm willing to pay for it.' There is a niche in the market where we can meet that need.
What do you spend on?