x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

To aspire is fine but don’t show off

For as long as he can remember, John Paul Kavanagh has spent his time sitting in hotel lobbies. His father is a hotelier in Ireland, and Mr Kavanagh has followed his footsteps.

For as long as he can remember, John Paul Kavanagh has spent his time sitting in hotel lobbies. His father is a hotelier in Ireland, and Mr Kavanagh has followed his footsteps. After stints in London, Paris, Scotland and Dublin – including for a boutique hotel owned by the rock band U2 – the 41-year-old became the general manager of Sheraton Hotel, Mall of the Emirates in Dubai four months ago. Brought up in Dublin, capital of the country known as the Celtic Tiger in the 1990s because of its economic growth rate, Mr Kavanagh says he is a conservative investor.

Describe your financial journey so far?

As a child I was brought up in and around hotels and as a career it is easy on your children. The skill set required to be a good hotelier has changed over the years. Before it was all about hospitality. Now, you need to have a business brain because you have to make capital decisions and financial forecasts. But it is still a hospitable industry. In the late 1990s, I worked for a boutique hotel owned by U2. I was young then and in the front-office management for the hotel, which was called Clarence. It was a fashionable place to be in the 1990s. It was great fun. I joined Starwood group, which has nine brands including Sheraton, in 2000.

I am probably an old school Irishman — I like to own what I live in and not overstretch. In the late period of the Celtic Tiger when the economy was overheating, I felt I was losing contact with Ireland. I left Ireland in 2003, and each time I came back it seemed I didn’t know the place. Neither my wife nor me are major risk takers.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I am definitely a saver. I have three children — aged 13, 11 and eight — and I have plans for them and am saving for their university years. I am not a consumer. People in my life are more important than possessions. Occasionally I indulge.

Have you made any financial mistakes along the way?

I am a conservative investor. So, did I miss any opportunities? I might have because I stick with what I know. As I am not an entrepreneur and I have had a job all my life, I like to have safety nets. A bonus should be just that, a bonus, something on top of a salary. I wouldn’t go and spend it. I have always stuck within my means. Win it, earn it, get it. I am very controlled with money, so it never became a challenge for me. I do not depend on it. But I enjoy life.

What is your philosophy regarding money?

Money is not the be all and end all of life. Life is about experiences, and being able to sleep at night. And that I should be able to provide for my family. Always aspire for better things rather than show [off wealth] and keep growing. I like to put some money aside. What is the most valuable financial advice you have ever received?

My mother always used to say ‘get the worst house on the best street’. I won’t speculate in cities I don’t know.

Any tips for a new expatriate coming to the UAE?

Tailor your plan to your needs and plan your move. Have access to cash. And bring lots of copies of all your documents.

What do you like to spend your money on?

I invest in properties and I will stick with what I know [when it comes to locations]. I do not put too many eggs in one basket and I do not invest in more than I can afford. I also adequately plan for retirement and enjoy life along the way. But it also helps that my wife is a corporate banker. We like travelling and from Dubai, we plan to see as much as we can. We have plans to visit Vietnam and Cambodia next. We spent two and half weeks in Thailand and the East really captured our imagination.