x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Money & Me: Big spenders need to be big earners

Peter Harradine, head of the Swiss Business Council, advises keeping company and personal assets separate, and makes it a priority to live well.

Peter Harradine admits he is more of a spender than a saver. Jeff Topping / The National
Peter Harradine admits he is more of a spender than a saver. Jeff Topping / The National

Originally from Berne, Switzerland, Peter Harradine is the president of the Swiss Business Council in the UAE. He moved to the Emirates with his family in 1977 after visiting Dubai a year earlier to investigate the possibility of designing a golf course. The passionate golfer says he received his first set of clubs at the age of six and his love of the game extended into his professional career as a golf-course designer. So far, he's designed 160 golf courses around the world, including many in the Middle East.

Describe your financial journey so far.

My financial journey to date has been exciting, frustrating, beneficial and very risky. A prime example includes spending costs on contracts as a result of stiff competition, even though many "competitors" were not at all credible, but simply pre-qualified due to their "connections". This required incredibly precarious pricing strategies and very thorough monitoring during construction (of a golf course), coupled with clever advance buying due to the frequent fluctuation of the dollar. This financial period in my life was, therefore, particularly risky, but also rewarding in the end.

Are you a spender or a saver?

Unlike the average Swiss person, I am, unfortunately, a spender. I like to live and travel comfortably. I also have a tendency to buy items that I never use, such as clothes and useless accessories for the house. I cannot hang onto money for very long. Unfortunately, I have always made money quite easily from a very young age, so I do not really know the true "value" of money. My parents never really understood my financial philosophy because they were very frugal and careful with money, especially with my mother being a true Swiss.

What is your philosophy towards money?

My philosophy towards money is that one should make money so that one can spend it. I do not believe in saving money, although I might regret it later on in life. The main reason I work hard is to make money so that I can live the way I want to live.

What has been your most valuable financial lesson?

The most valuable financial lesson I ever learnt was to not use the same philosophy when you are managing a company or other people's money. My own personal experiences have taught me what I should not do when running a business or dealing with other people's money. I think it is very important to always separate your own personal dealings with the company or money or assets that are entrusted to you. I have never bought any shares whatsoever and I have not lost money on property, either.

What is the aim of the Swiss Business Council?

The Swiss Business Council has been operating in the UAE for 15 years. The council's objective is to strengthen relationships and to provide a bridge between the UAE and Swiss companies. Our extensive experience within the UAE means that the council has many useful, reciprocal contacts and we can provide valuable advice on the substantial differences between the UAE and Switzerland in terms of their culture, traditions and business principles.

What has been your biggest financial challenge?

While living in Dubai, the first local crisis in the mid-1980s left us with an incredible cash-flow problem, which was a great lesson for later years. We have always been very cautious and conservative with our distribution of profits, which meant that we had adequate reserves to resolve the cash-flow problem. In not doing a "runner" at a difficult time, I learnt that this gained us much credibility with the banks, which has also helped the company deal with the current financial meltdown. The crisis taught me to be very conservative with company money.

What do you like to invest in?

In the future, I would like to invest in real estate in the UAE and Switzerland. This is, I believe, now the time to buy. Real estate is the best investment in the present situation because it will definitely appreciate eventually.

Is money important to you?

Unfortunately, I have never really understood the meaning of money because I have always managed to earn enough money to live the way I have always wanted to. I try to teach my children that we live in a greedy and corrupt world; trusting everyone will only disappoint you. I fear my children may have to learn the hard way by making their own mistakes and learning from them.