x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Money & Me: Money must be used to be of value

Dani Richa says he invests in things that bring him joy, such as properties that his family can use.

October 17. Dani Richa, Chairman and CEO of ImpactBBDO Group - Middle East and North Africa. October 17, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National)
October 17. Dani Richa, Chairman and CEO of ImpactBBDO Group - Middle East and North Africa. October 17, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National)

Dani Richa is the chairman and chief executive of BBDO Group MENA, a communication solutions agency. Mr Richa, who is originally from Lebanon and has lived in Dubai since 2009, has worked for the company for 23 years and became a partner in 1995.

Describe your financial journey so far.

I grew up partly in Lebanon, partly in Saudi Arabia and partly in Paris, where I studied advertising at university. I have to thank God because I am blessed. I grew up in a wealthy family and started earning good money very early in my career. I started working in advertising at the age of 21. It's simple: work hard, get a bit lucky, work harder. Luck is around us, one has to see it, capture it and work really hard to maximise it. Bad luck is also around us. One has to see it, try to avoid it and work really hard to minimise it. At the end of the day, it all boils down to working really hard.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I save to spend. I guess I am more of a spender. I believe that money has no value. It is paper until one turns it into something worthwhile - be it a physical object or, more importantly, an emotional reward. When it comes to other people's money, I am very different. As a CEO, I am extremely tight when it comes to cost and I take little to no risk when it comes to investing.

What is your philosophy towards money?

One can't be too philosophical about money, but, of course, I have a point of view. I believe money should only be a mean and never an end. Having a lot of money shouldn't be the goal, but living a great life and being generous to the ones you love matters the most to me. Maybe that's why people say he has the means as opposed to he has money.

What has been your most valuable financial lesson?

I have seen money come and go. I saw my father's lifetime savings disappear when, in 1982, the Lebanese pound depreciated from three pounds to the dollar to 2,000 pounds to the dollar. He was such a principled man, he refused to exchange his money to dollars because he didn't want to contribute to the depreciation. I was studying in Paris then and he would exchange my allowance on a monthly basis into French francs and each month, the same amount of francs were multiples of Lebanese pounds. I have learnt that cash is volatile, especially nowadays.

What has been your biggest financial challenge?

In the early 1990s, I embarked on an ambitious project, believing the budget presented to me to build a family building was accurate. The building took two extra years and more than double the initial budget. Needless to say that at the young age of 28, it was quite a financial burden and I passed through a couple of difficult years. Luckily, the real estate market picked up and I sold my share and made a good profit.

Why did you decide to become a partner in your business?

Because I wanted to be there long term and get out of my head what it would be like to work for yourself. I became a partner in 1995 and it feels good because you are building something long term. Because you put so much into your job in terms of time and sacrifice, it just feels more rewarding to know that the company is going somewhere and gaining value all the time. It's the building aspect I like.

Is money important to you?

I really don't care about money, but I am really afraid of not having enough one day. Money is security and I have three kids - two daughters, aged 12 and six, and a son, aged eight - and a lovely wife, who all live in Beirut. I would like them to have the life my parents gave me: good education, good health care and a lot of culture.

What do you like to invest in?

I try to invest in the things I can enjoy, for example, the real estate assets I own are all properties that my family use. Of course I am happy to see them gain in value with time, but the real value is seeing my family make the most of it. In the long run, that's how you really maximise your gains as you're not in a hurry to sell. I have also invested in my business and since I enjoy what I do, the same applies. Even when it comes to the stocks I carry, they are companies with brands I love.

What financial advice would you give your children?

I try to communicate to them every day never to talk about money, never to tell other people what you have and to accept that everybody is equal and that people are measured by their values and not by how much money they have or what they own. They respond very well to that. They have very close friends from different social classes and they never talk about what they have and they enjoy their friendships regardless of who their friends are.