Some may call it brave to open a high-end, invitation-only members club in the midst of a pandemic, but after 14 years in the UAE, Count Oliver of Wurmbrand-Stuppach in the Principality of Liechtenstein thinks it is an opportune time. In a world now dominated by Zoom calls, the 39-year-old nobleman is launching The Ambassadors Club at the Conrad Hotel, Dubai, and says the UAE's business community is crying out for physical connection in a space that offers luxury, privacy and high-end networking to ensure precious business networks keep growing in spite of the financial crisis.
How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?
I grew up near Munich (Germany) and my parents were entrepreneurs in the energy and electricity industries. So I grew up very independently at an early age and learned to pursue my own goals.
How much did you get paid for your first job?
As a teenager, I had a weekly radio show – every weekend at 7am. I did not receive any salary and, to be honest, I also think that we hardly had any audience, but it was fun. When I was 20 years old, I got my first real job at a large advertising agency in Germany through a colleague at that radio station. The starting salary was around Dh4,000.
Are you a spender or a saver?
My friends would probably say I am a spender. I think what matters most is the right balance. There is little point in postponing all your goals and wishes to the future, because you never know what will come tomorrow. Sometimes I am able to manage this balance better, sometimes not.
What is your most cherished purchase?
My home by the sea in Ras Al Khaimah. I live in a beautiful beachfront community, walk my dogs by the sea every day and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Where do you save?
I keep my liquidity at the level of my short-term needs, and invest the majority of my funds in my companies, stocks, real estate and commodities, which I distribute geographically.
What is your biggest financial milestone?
This would be, without a doubt, when I started my first company, GWS Consulting, a management and marketing company. This required entrepreneurship, courage and a quite a bit of luck. I was able to build a great team that I can be proud of every day.
What has been your best investment?
I am a big fan of precious metals, especially gold. I bought my first gold coin, a South African Krugerrand, for $860 at a time when precious metals were not really regarded as an important investment. Since then, I have increased my precious metals inventory. The gold price only recently reached an all-time high and I am confident that precious metals will remain a very exciting investment.
Have you ever had a month where you feared you could not pay the bills?
Yes, when I got my first job in my early 20s. At the end of the month, instead of the hoped-for money from the ATM, I received a message that I had reached my limit. It was then that I realised that I had to sort my finances out and, above all, increase my income.
Do you use a financial adviser?
Since I manage a financial company, I have many financial service providers in my close circle of friends, and naturally we often exchange ideas on a private level. I’m not a big fan of completely relinquishing responsibility of my wealth. This may be convenient, but ultimately, you should look after your wealth yourself, like you would with your job.
Do you have any financial regrets?
Of course, not all of my investments have paid off. Opportunities always involve risks, and unfortunately, I also made promising investments in the past that had a value of zero the next day. It is important to diversify your investments as widely as possible so that you do not become too dependent on the success of one individual investment. In retrospect, you can always evaluate an investment differently than when you made the decision. Investing in Apple stock 30 years ago would have been very smart, but I don’t think anyone could have made it through 30 years.
Do you plan for the future?
In my private life, I don’t plan very long-term into the future, because you don’t know what the world will look like tomorrow and new opportunities and changes can always arise. As we have recently seen through the pandemic, any plans can change very quickly and very drastically.
What luxuries are important to you?
I enjoy staying in great hotels, eating in beautiful restaurants and the luxury of having time.
How much do you have in your wallet right now?
Currently Dh780 and a lot of bills for the accounting department.
What car do you drive?
A Jaguar; I love the mix of sporty and classic design. Only English cars have this type of combination.
Do you prefer using a credit card or cash?
I mostly pay by credit card to collect some Emirates Skywards. It’s a great thing when you spend money and then at least earn a few free flights. This way, you can also justify less reasonable expenses to yourself.
What financial advice would you offer your younger self?
Move to the UAE and save on taxes.
What would you raid your savings account for?
Currently for nothing. My savings are my personal insurance that I don’t want to spend lightly.
How has Covid-19 changed your view towards money?
The stock exchanges were able to recover very quickly, although the overall economic situation looks significantly worse than at the beginning of the year. I have therefore further diversified my assets and have increasingly invested in tangible assets such as real estate and raw materials.
What have been the biggest lessons of Covid-19?
That the world can change overnight. What was unimaginable yesterday is reality today. Many businesses and entrepreneurs – from small grocery stores to corporations with thousands of employees – have seen their efforts turned to rubble, losing their jobs and livelihoods. It is best to act very farsighted here and encourage personal responsibility, because if the café around the corner or our favourite restaurant has to close forever, the cities and malls will suffer long after Covid-19.
Some may say that you’re chartering brave territory, opening a new venture in the luxury hospitality sector in the midst of a pandemic. What gives you the confidence to do this?
We are breaking new ground with the Ambassadors Club, and I am absolutely convinced of this new idea – especially in this day and age. The Ambassadors Club is a combination of networking, entertainment, luxury lifestyle and top-class business contacts on a private, amicable level. A Zoom conference cannot permanently replace personal contact. In addition, we have all seen over the last few months that people are travelling less and are looking for entertainment and variety in their own country more than ever. This is exactly where we come in, by creating a private members’ club where you know each other, have a network of like-minded people, and can exchange ideas with friends and personalities from business, politics, culture and society in an exclusive, private setting.