Money & Me: An eye for a good investment

As senior executive officer at Aberdeen Asset Management, Andrew Paul's interest in the world of finance started at university when he joined an investment club for students


Andrew Paul, Senior Executive Officer, Aberdeen Asset Middle East Limited.

(Photo by Reem Mohammed/The National)

Reporter: Jessica Hill
Section: BZ / Money & Me
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Andrew Paul is still finding his feet in the UAE, having moved from London to Abu Dhabi with his employer, Aberdeen Asset Management, last September to take on the new role of senior executive officer in the Middle East. The 37 year-old Scot, who himself is from Aberdeen, has worked for Aberdeen Asset Management since graduating from university in 2003, most recently as head of group strategy in London. He is now responsible for the company’s newly opened regional hub at Abu Dhabi’s financial free zone in Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM.) Aberdeen Asset Management, a full-service asset management group that operates in 25 countries, was the first international asset manager to register with ADGM.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I was quite fortunate as my parents are middle class, and always had enough money for the basics. My mum was a housewife and my dad worked in oil & gas. I was privately educated and my parents were quite clear that I was on their paybook until after university. They paid my tuition fees, rent and living costs, because they didn’t want me to be distracted from my studies by having to find work. But as soon as I hit 22, I had to go out and fend for myself.

How much were you paid for your first job?

I studied law and accountancy at Edinburgh University, and during my summer break, when I was about 20, I earned £4 pounds an hour as a general shop floor assistant at Marks & Spencer. The nice thing about that was that I didn’t earn enough to have to pay tax, and because my parents paid for all of life’s necessities, what I made was all discretionary spend.

What was it that piqued your interest in investment?

I joined my university’s investment club as a student, and it was the club that got me interested in the world of investing. With what little money I had, I put together a stock portfolio. I only had it for 18 months and I didn’t make anything spectacular from it, I think it delivered 10 per cent if I was lucky. But what I learnt was that a lot of that 10 per cent gain was simply due to market movements, so the actual skill needed to make money was very close to zero. It was just a hobby back then, but it developed my interest in investment.

What was your first finance-related job?

The following summer, I took up a paid internship for Goldman Sachs Investment Banking division in London. I had to go from my student life of relative freedom to working basic hours of 7am to 7pm every day. It was a big shock to my system - they worked me hard, but I got good discipline as a result. I think I was paid £500 a week. Once I embarked on my career, it wasn’t until my second year of full-time work (for Aberdeen Asset Management) that I was earning that kind of money again.

What was your first role at Aberdeen Asset Management?

When I started my career, it was my desire to become an asset manager - in other words, one of the investors who was actually buying and selling stocks. I started out (as a performance monitor) on a pretty modest salary. I was based in Aberdeen, not London, so the salary wasn’t really comparable. For the first couple of years I was very much eating into savings rather than managing to put money away.

What prompted you to change your role?

I did my CFA (the Chartered Financial Analyst credential), the professional qualification required for investment management, and part way through, I decided that actually I’d much rather be on the business development/relationship management side of things. Investment is the right fit if you’re very good at it, and equally if you’re in a good area which everyone wants to invest in. But it's cyclical - sometimes equity is a great place to be, sometimes fixed income, other times real estate; it's always changing. I realised that if I was on the relationship management side, it didn’t matter which particular area was interesting, I would always be at the centre of things.

What’s your philosophy towards money?

I spend within my means. I don’t have loans - I have a mortgage, but I pay off my credit card each month. I love to travel so when I get more money, I travel to more interesting places. Money also enables me to have a rainy-day fund, for security. During the financial crises that have arisen so far this century, I’ve not known quite what will happen with my job. Having some savings on the side gives me comfort to know that if lose my job, I can still afford a meal and a roof over my head.

What’s the best investment you’ve ever made?

Probably my first flat, which I bought in late 2013 in Pimlico, Central London. My wife and I were living in it, so it was tax-free when we sold it in 2015, during the heyday of the London property market, for 20-25 per cent more than what I’d initially bought it for. We used the proceeds to buy our family house in Dulwich, which we currently rent out.

What was the worst investment you’ve ever made?

That would be a Mesh (computer) I bought at university, I paid £2,000 for it, a lot of money for a student given that the technology would have been out of date within a few years.

What are your most cherished purchases?

My family home in Dulwich. One of the drawbacks of being out here in Abu Dhabi is having to rent – I prefer living in my own home to being a tenant. Also the Omega watch that my wife gave me when we got engaged, because it has sentimental value. I had been looking to buy an Omega watch for a long time, but I couldn’t quite convince myself to pay the money. It’s not so much the designer name or the style of the watch itself that I value, as the connection the watch has to my wife.

Where do you save?

Mostly in the UK. I don’t save much in the UAE, mainly because I’m trying to pay down the mortgage for our house. I’m also quite fortunate that working with a UK company means I have a pension, which is all in mutual funds.

Do you prefer paying by credit card or cash?

Credit card. My credit card is linked to Etihad so I get miles for purchases. I like the benefits you get from credit cards but I’m not going to pay the interest rates, so paying it off in full each month is important.

What kind of things are you prone to splash out on each month?

Travel. One of the draws of moving out here was the opportunity to re-centre myself with new countries as holiday options. I’m quite fortunate in that my role is regional, so I’ve been able to visit most of the GCC countries now, and I’m going to the Maldives in September with my wife.

I’m also splashing out on my daughter, who was born four months ago. When you have your first child there is of course that tendency to buy too many toys and clothes for them. She is getting very spoilt at the moment.

What kind of money lessons do you hope to teach your daughter as she grows up?

That education is always worth paying for. I’m a great believer in investing in yourself, because the return on investment with education is priceless.