Money & Me: 'My father is a self-made man and an inspiration'

Italian lawyer Riccardo Denaro has embarked on his first entrepreneurial adventure with two friends by investing in an e-commerce platform

Dubai-based lawyer Riccardo Denaro relies on a personal financial adviser to help him with his investments. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Lawyer Riccardo Denaro, 34, is an associate with Italian firm BonelliErede in Dubai.

Mr Denaro initially intended to be in the Emirates for a few months to run a special project with a new client. However, he has stayed for three years, reinforcing his business attitude as well as legal skills.

Mr Denaro lives in Business Bay and is a keen athlete who devotes his downtime and funds to cycling and triathlons.

Last year, Mr Denaro and two friends invested in The Fleece Milano, an e-commerce venture offering quality Italian-made menswear and sartorial face masks.

Did you experience money and aspiration growing up?

I was born in Sicily and at 14 moved to Milan where my mother created her own company, training employees in health and safety. My father became a lawyer for some banks and insurance companies, but came from a very modest family. My grandfather used to be in a workshop and so my father is the definition of a self-made man, an inspiration for me. He managed to evolve from that kind of situation to a high/middle class level where I didn't have to worry about anything. He's always been ambitious with a great sense of duty. It's something I got from him.

What was your savings outlook?

When I was a child and used to get money from my father, my mother or grandmother, I used to save. I could have probably gone and spent it on toys and things that I liked, but I had that mindset at the beginning. When you don't have that much money, whatever you don't spend you just keep for rainy days.

Has that attitude evolved?

When you start to grow up and have room to manoeuvre and some additional resources coming in and, as I did, start seeing different economic environments, different countries and the approach they have towards money, it made me significantly change my attitude.

Now, I'm much more keen on investing my money. If there are good opportunities, if I hear of something I'm interested in, I am eager to look into it, whereas before I would have probably let it slip.

How did law take you to the UAE?

I was doing another project for our office in Barcelona. It's an opportunity that they gave to expand your network, to see also another kind of legal environment, which was nice also from a personal perspective. I was about to end that experience and head back to Milan but received a call from the managing partner of the recently opened Dubai office. I love to travel, know different places, different people and cultures.

Riccardo Denaro has started investing in cryptocurrencies. Antonie Robertson / The National

How do you grow your wealth?

I have a personal financial adviser. We agree a strategy together and it's a balanced mix between bonds, less aggressive investments and more aggressive investments like shares, investment funds. And I've started with cryptocurrency. I’m always trying to find the right balance because it's not something that I can really look after. I'm a person who likes to know what he's doing, so I'm not just saying, “Here's my money, make something out of it”. I try to find time to understand, but when you go on the risky side you have to keep monitoring and controlling and with the job that I do, this is not possible. It's all about the right compromise.

Do you have a favourite investment?

The investment I care the most about is probably Fleece Milano, with two of my dearest friends. We're trying to make it grow together. It's an entrepreneurial adventure, it's also the passion that we have for quality garments made in Italy. I'm actively involved in strategic decisions.

We got the sartorial face masks (included) because we had a nice business plan, nice collection … and the pandemic came, then lockdown. We were tired of wearing ugly masks and came up with this, made out of suit fabric. We ended up selling thousands of them.

What is your most cherished purchase?

My bike. It’s an Argon 18, Model E119 Tri. This one is not crazy expensive, probably around €7,000 ($8,116). What worries me the most is my next purchase because it (cycling) is becoming more serious. I'm very affectionate towards my bike, but I'm wondering whether, if I have to upgrade, it's not going to be painless.

I was a probably a casual saver before, just because it was the easiest thing to do
Riccardo Denaro

Does money make you happy?

Not money itself. It's probably what it allows me to get; to travel, see new places. But money itself, just earning money, having it in the bank, is not my main concern.

I was probably a casual saver before, just because it was the easiest thing to do. Now I’m converting my mentality because it makes sense to make some profit out of what you've got, but it's not what makes me happy.

So earning isn't a motivation?

Not money. It's more the work, from a professional perspective, it's ambition, finding something that is challenging, both professional and personal-wise. Pushing my limits and having a good sense of duty. I am a perfectionist, very demanding with myself. Whatever I do, I try to do the best that I can. I don't give myself any particular discount. It's more than about money, it's about being focused and achieving important results.

Are you wise with money?

I would say yes. I tend to avoid superfluous things. I've never been spoiled with buying anything that I see or that I want. If it's something I need, I'll buy it. If I see something that I like every now and then, I'll make a present to myself, but I don't have a lot of time to go shopping. Between training and working, my days get used up pretty fast. I'm a very rational person. Whatever I do, I think at least twice, I do my homework.

Has the pandemic taught you anything financially?

I'm not a frivolous spender. I know what I can spend, I don't go over that. So when the pandemic came, I was not particularly worried. Also, I consulted with my financial adviser. The market is driven by so many factors, you have cycles, so if something unexpected like this is coming, you don't have to lose your mind, maybe re-work your strategy, re-work the term of your investment, diversify the risk. What I've learnt is that you don't have to panic, you have to think rationally. There was a great climb again in the market. You just have to stay informed and avoid instinctive behaviour when it comes to money and investments.

What are you happiest spending on?

I am always happy to spend on travelling, and travelling also for concerts and sports events. I've been in Sheffield three times for the World Snooker Championship. Mark Knopfler is probably my favourite living artist. I've seen him from Krakow to Minneapolis to Glasgow to London, everywhere.

Do you plan for retirement?

That's a question I've started posing to myself in the past year. In Italy, there is a retirement plan if you are working and producing in Italy. I was paying towards that. I prefer now to save and invest rather than think about a classic retirement plan. I'll see how it plays out for the next couple of years and then probably recalibrate my financial and investment situation accordingly.

Updated: October 07, 2021, 7:19 AM