Marcello Arcangeli believes there is an opportunity in every situation, a mantra that has stood him in good stead over two downturns. He moved to the UAE following the global financial crisis, attracted by the opportunities in the property market and set up Your Place, a real estate investment firm focused on brokerage, property management, business development, finance and marketing.
As chief executive and co-founder, the Italian national has spearheaded a 120 per cent increase in turnover for the company during the pandemic, he says.
Before moving to the UAE, Mr Arcangeli had a career in insurance, finance and wealth management at institutions such as the Zurich Group and Banca Fineco, Italy’s first full online bank. An engineering graduate with three children, he lives in Jumeirah Lakes Towers in Dubai.
What early ideas about money do you remember?
I grew up in Mestre near Venice in Italy during the 1970s. I was always curious about money and investments, which came from my avid interest in stock exchanges. When I saw the glamour associated with this world on TV and in movies such as Carlo Vanzina's Yuppies – I giovani di successo and Via Montenapoleone, I began to think about investments as a career.
Did the glamour attract you?
I liked the fact that investments presented an opportunity to earn money while you sleep, or make you money without working. And yes, being well-dressed and owning beautiful cars.
What was your first job?
I began my career in my early 20s working part-time for Telecom Italia in customer service. That gave me my first experience of engaging with people on a professional level. My first monthly salary was around 1.5 million Italian lira (about $1,000/Dh3,672.5).
What was an early lesson you have learned about money?
Money is a tool that can help you enjoy life, but you can’t live for money or compromise yourself for it. I still remember the time a few colleagues were fired for mis-selling pension funds, and it was clear to me from then that honesty was critical to dealing with money at any level.
How did you pay for your first home?
I bought a three-bedroom apartment in Mestre for half a billion lira in 1999 and paid for it with a bank mortgage. I chose the property for its location in one of the best areas in the city. A good location will give you the best return and protect your asset. I still own it.
How many properties do you own?
A few properties in Italy and Dubai that are for investment.
Who or what has been your biggest financial inspiration?
The event that changed my way of thinking was the rise of the new economy, as we called it in Italy, between 1998 and 2000. I realised then that the old investment rules were changing.
Before, it was quite easy to understand the potential value of a company and determine if it was underestimated in the market. With the internet [boom], many new companies appeared on the market and because the business was not easy to understand, their valuations were also difficult to understand. This meant that big opportunities to make money quickly appeared, but opportunities to lose money as well.
What money lessons did you learn during your career in finance?
Money is like a baby for any investor. What is key is understanding their pain limit or tolerance for a potential loss in case of a market crash. Once you have identified that pain point, you can advise the investor and build the right portfolio that respects that limit.
What brought you to the UAE?
I first visited Dubai around 2006 with a friend and colleague to make investments on behalf of our clients because we saw a huge opportunity. Since we already had a strong base of investment clients, we could have an immediately profitable business and launched Your Place in 2011 and built it steadily ever since as a Dubai-established, quality brokerage specialising in investments. It sounds simple, but that’s how it was.
What is your financial goal?
To be a billionaire.
Tell us about the most challenging moments you have faced financially.
When the pandemic hit, I could have sat back and said, I can’t do business because nobody’s coming – but I don’t see it that way. I take it as a challenge and try to find an opportunity. So I used Zoom to my advantage to get in touch with clients and offer them amazing deals – and turn my situation around.
On the other hand, you also cut back in your personal life. In 2008, when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, we were hit with cash flow problems overnight at another company. We stayed quite relaxed and cut back our expenses. I remember from September 2008 to May 2009, we had only a couple of deals. So we started to develop the business, build on our property portfolio and add property management on behalf of our clients.
Never forget where you come from. I come from a normal family in Italy. If I was able to live without luxuries before, I can do so again. It’s not shameful to make a fresh start again. I was not born in a Rolls-Royce. So if I don’t have a Rolls-Royce, I don’t feel lost in my life.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I am the right balance between a spender and saver.
How do you determine that balance?
First, I decide how much I need to save, then I can spend the balance, enjoy my life and have a relaxed state of mind. I have a set of long-term savings goals, which I break down to see what I have to save on a regular basis and set aside money annually, quarterly and monthly.
Where do you save?
My savings are located in different banks because of the geographic challenges of being an expat.
How do you invest?
I use an automatic system of trading with a growth risk profile at Joe Ross Fair Trading. I believe only different and automatic strategies will give you a constant return on investment because they are flexible, fast and they switch into the best investment asset class of the moment. I also invest in cryptocurrencies.
How is that different from conventional trading?
With conventional trading, you depend on buying stocks or other financial instruments at the right time and holding them until the value goes up. If you are lucky, that is maybe a few weeks or months, as we saw during the lockdown. But nobody knows when that is going to happen – you need to be very active and have a flexible strategy.
You cannot afford to buy a handful of stocks and wait five years for them to appreciate – because in five years, the situation could have changed completely. Nokia is a good case in point here.
With automatic systems, which is how the majority of trading takes place today, a machine [or algorithm] can manage your portfolio using a range of different strategies for maximum gain, and does so in a way that leaves you more relaxed and offers the best opportunities.
How much do you have in your wallet right now?
Right now, I have around Dh10,000 in cash in my wallet as well as credit cards. It’s a lot of cash to carry around, but if there is an issue with a card at a machine or the card doesn’t work then I will have cash. I grew up in a world where there was just cash and it was amazing.
What car do you drive?
A Jeep Grand Cherokee. It’s the best value-for-money car in Dubai.
If you could live your life again, what financial decision would you change?
I don’t live with regrets.