Money & Me: ‘My best investment was buying a house in Dubai’

Sharaz Hussain, co-founder and managing director of private equity company EightClouds, believes saving is an ineffective use of money

Sharaz Hussain, co-founder and managing director of EightClouds, is a very strong believer in creating passive income. Leslie Pableo for The National
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Sharaz Hussain started his career in the early 1990s at investment bank JP Morgan, where he was trading financial derivatives.

Over the course of 30 years, the British citizen has worked with blue-chip organisations such as Credit Suisse First Boston and Man Financial in London and New York.

Mr Hussain, now co-founder and managing director of UAE-based private equity company EightClouds, learnt the ethos of hard work and simple living while working for his parents, who ran small businesses in Sheffield, Britain.

He has been in the UAE for 12 years, is married with three children and lives in The Meadows, Dubai.

A qualified International Cricket Council coach, Mr Hussain, 52, plays the sport in England during the summer.

“It’s a passion that I've had from childhood that has allowed me to meet people from different social backgrounds,” he says.

Did wealth feature in your childhood?

My parents ran very small businesses. My mother ran a hardware store while my father worked in public transport and owned a cafe. He then went on to have his convenience store.

Although it was very small scale, I learnt the ethos of hard work seven days a week and managing a very small business from a young age.

My involvement in financial markets started from the age of 15 or 16 when I started investing in the stock market and learning about the world of finance. That manifested itself through my teenage years and university years.

How did you first earn?

I used to open my father's convenience store at 6.30am and close it at 10.30pm for seven days a week.

After school, I used to work as a cricket umpire at an indoor cricket centre. I earned £3.50 an hour, which is about Dh15 today.

Before I went to university, I got a job as an insurance underwriter for one year where my annual salary was Dh35,000.

I did a number of side hustles and businesses all the time. I even took out my student loan and bought shares with it.

Any early financial setbacks?

It was when I invested in an internet cafe in the early 1990s. It was before the internet boom.

That was my first failed venture. The concept was good, but the timing was wrong.

How do you grow your wealth?

By diversifying my portfolio, not being scared of debt and using leverage in an effective manner.

I invest across a broad spectrum of things and am not afraid of borrowing money to make money.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I would call myself a spender and an investor, not a saver. Beyond a very small percentage of your wealth, saving is an ineffective use of money.

I am a very strong believer in creating passive income, not saving.

For the past 15 years or so, interest rates have been zero. So, it has not very effective to save.

You need enough for an emergency but other than that, savings do not grow enough to outweigh the cost of living.

What asset classes do you invest in?

I started with equities and then diversified over the years into many things such as businesses, property and people.

You do not necessarily have to invest in a business venture. You could invest in a person who you believe is going to do well in their idea. You back them through intellectual capital or financial capital.

I have done that with somebody who set up a tutoring business 11 years ago. He went on to be a hugely successful businessperson and a multimillionaire.

Have you been wise with money?

Not always. When you invest in money, you have to take a calculated risk. But there is no guarantee that things will work all the time. Sometimes events happen that are beyond your control, such as 9/11 or Covid-19.

This is where diversification helps. Where I have been wise is I have not invested too much of my wealth in one particular sector or one particular theme.

What has been your best investment?

My best investment financially was buying my house as soon as I arrived in Dubai 12 years ago.

It is not just about the appreciation in capital. But I envisaged Dubai growing the way it has.

I looked at the factors – society, ease of work, climate, safety, geographic location, demographic of people – and I felt as though Dubai was going to grow as a city.

As opposed to doing what a lot of people do, which is to rent initially, I took the decision on arrival to buy a property.

In hindsight, that has been the best investment I have ever made. It has not always made me the most money, but sometimes it is the ability to spot an opportunity and take it quickly.

People get wrapped up about immediate returns and lose track of the big picture.

Any cherished purchases?

It is a full-size cricket net in my garden with a bowling machine. That means more to me than nearly most other things.

I have achieved the ability to not do something that I do not like. Not everybody is in a privileged position to have that
Sharaz Hussain, co-founder and managing director of EightClouds

The second one was not something I bought, but it was given as a gift. When I started my first full-time job, my mother gave me a garment bag. That means a lot to me because 30 years later, it reminds me of my work journey. I will never throw it away because it is a reminder of my start in life.

Any financial advice for your younger self?

Take advantage of investing and saving early in life.

You do not realise the value of compound interest until you get older. The earlier you invest, the quicker it grows over time.

Do you have any key financial milestones?

I have achieved the ability to not do something that I do not like. Not everybody is in a privileged position to have that.

This was not always the case. There are many times you have to do jobs for necessity. But that is a financial privilege for me.

What are your financial goals?

My financial goals are to make sure that I am able to afford a healthy lifestyle, provide for my loved ones and help my children have a good level of education.

I like to have an active role in helping other people level up. Everybody looks at the UAE and the Gulf as a very aspirational place and very wealth-driven. But there are also a lot of people here who support that economy.

I have somebody working for me. I see his three children as an extension of my family. I want to educate them, pay for their weddings.

I want to help in whatever way possible to spread wealth a little bit.

Do you earn passive income?

Passive income sources can be dividends from businesses I have invested in, rent from properties and growth through my stock portfolio.

How do you feel about money?

I am very comfortable talking about money. It does not define my life.

What luxuries are important to you?

Health. It refers to the ability to sleep in comfort, eat well and relax. I am not into luxurious goods.

I also want the luxury to be able to use money to give others happiness, whether it is through holidays or buying meals or treats.

Freedom is also the biggest luxury a person can have. Many people do not have the ability to be free because they are constrained by money.

You are incredibly wealthy if you have freedom.

Updated: March 08, 2024, 6:02 PM