Money and me: from Toyota Corolla to Porsche Cayenne for Dubai construction manager

Hugh Bigley, general manager of Deco Emirates, shares his thoughts and philosophies on money.

Hugh Bigley is the general manager of Deco Emirates, an interior design business. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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Hugh Bigley is the general manager of Deco Emirates, a retail fit-out business based in Dubai Investments Park. The Briton, 53, who has lived in the UAE for 15 years, has 30 years’ experience in the construction industry working his way up from a blue-collar worker in the United Kingdom to company manager in Dubai.

Describe your financial journey so far.

I was a blue-collar worker in the UK and coming to the UAE gave me the chance to manage and run a company. It wasn’t an overnight transition but I showed what I could do and found that the management and motivation of men came quite easily to me. Financially, I had left the UK from a position of nervousness and job insecurity. There I had lived and worked through two recessions; at least here we have only had one, which few on the planet avoided. Therefore, any money I ever had saved for a rainy day was always spent as it always seemed to be raining. However, as a journey, I started in a second-hand Toyota Corolla and now drive a new Porsche Cayenne, although sometimes it does seem like I’m financing my own Formula One team.

Are you a spender or a saver?

I’m a saver or I would have liked to have been in the position to save. Since I arrived here I have made goals and I like to achieve them. I find that living here does offer up distractions that one may normally avoid in your home country and that can be a deterrent to saving. Financial security is very important to me and now I am at an age that the distractions do not play so heavily on my mind I can save and invest for the things that matter to me.

Is money important to you?

Money is very important to me mostly because of my age. Once I turned 50, money became far more important. Financial security has become my key concern and my number one priority. I have invested in property in the UK, the UAE and elsewhere. My investments here have done remarkably well as I was an original investor in the property market. Those investments were a possible risk at first as there was nothing certain as to how the market may work, but I trust Dubai and believe it to be well managed, looking to enhance its perception and status. Also my property generates an income and I know it’s there should there be any future shocks.

Have you made financial mistakes?

I bought an apartment in the Caribbean six years ago and it is still being built. It puts the UAE’s problems into perspective. I now realise one has to be very careful about the area you invest. Of course, in 2007 the globe was a very different place. I bought in St Lucia thinking the sun, sea and relaxed atmosphere would be a winner to one and all, but the development is still a long way from being finished, and there are no guarantees. I was concerned about my UAE properties but now I am seeing strong returns.

What is your philosophy towards money?

Do not get overleveraged; do not live beyond your means. Stay sensible, do not see everything as a chance of more returns and don’t ever use a credit card. If you can’t buy it out of your current account, wait until you can.

What has been your biggest financial lesson?

Recessions are part of life. You have to make sure you are braced for it. Interest rates can kill you; I have seen them jump to ridiculous levels, between 12 and 15 per cent. I nearly had to leave my job in England once because the interest rates went so high; I was better unemployed and relying on welfare. You have to hold on and batten down the hatches; you have to be employable and willing to work so that once the chance comes, it doesn’t go to someone else, it comes to you.

What do you like to spend your money on?

Watching cricket mostly. I’m off to Australia on December 23 for a couple of weeks to see The Ashes.