Zoltan Rendes, 49, is a partner and chief marketing officer at Dubai-based SunMoney Solar Group, which enables people to invest in renewable energy projects.
The Hungarian, partly educated in England and the US, became a TV correspondent covering wars and disasters, which helped him to develop an understanding of humanitarian issues and crisis management before beginning his business journey.
Launched in 2013, SunMoney runs a global community solar power programme. The EU also appointed Mr Rendes as its Hungary climate pact ambassador.
Mr Rendes, who is divorced, travels extensively with his son, Oliver, aged 12. They usually reside in long-term hotel rentals and currently live on The Palm Jumeirah.
Was there wealth in your childhood?
We were not bathing in money but we did not miss anything and had a very decent life. My father was an architect, my mother was in HR, working a lot to give me and my brother everything in a regime era … communism.
I was brought up to be an open person in an environment where you learn to live with other people and let people live the way they want. We were motivated to learn and achieve, and we did.
I did not learn much about money but what I learnt is you do not need money to be happy.
Has that outlook changed?
My attitude is the same. It is going to sound harsh but I do not respect money. And I do not respect people with just money. I would not respect myself if I had billions in the bank but did not have my life behind me.
I am not big on savings; we push everything we have into our business, we build or buy solar power plants and recently started in recycling.
We spend on things that make the world better. I don’t feel I need the big bank account behind me to live a good life.
When did you first earn?
As a child actor. It was a huge thing to go to the West and I got this opportunity to go to high school in England. That completely changed my perspective on the world.
I was 16 when they chose me for local theatre. That was the first money I got. I had a good four-year run with some appearances in TV shows but, as always, I wanted to do something bigger. I still perform and operate well under stress … it gives me superpowers.
What led to SunMoney?
I wanted to try media. I took a job as a journalist, and then had to go to war. I ended up doing it for 10 years … Kosovo, the Middle East, Afghanistan and also Africa.
Every disaster … earthquakes, volcanic eruption, some tornadoes, hurricanes. I learnt a lot about business, too, and about making decisions, because you had to.
I started to work with aid organisations and made connections with the Red Cross, UN bodies, learnt to see good deeds, the heroes, because if you don’t, war just eats you up.
After that, I had my corporate career but wanted to do my own thing. I put my energy into start-ups and then met my current business partners.
We wanted to do something that matters, which has a strong pro-human humanity part.
We started SunMoney 10 years ago and are in more than 60 countries. Since 2014, our main entity has been here.
How does SunMoney create returns?
We push into places where renewable energy is a good investment for people who want to invest but do not have millions. You can be part of this with €100 ($109), try it out, see the returns and then if you want to do bigger, you do it.
Our clients put money into a pool of solar power plants; they buy rights to the revenue generated by those watts.
It is pretty safe – some say it is boring – but renewable energy is similar to the camel caravan in the desert … it will reach its destination, slowly but surely.
We educate and we are trying to show that you can actually make money from something that is good, which helps the world and helps people to survive.
What is your savings strategy?
We look at our company, all our assets, as our savings. I have some money in my account, but never keep too much because that could be put to use.
We look at money as a colleague; the money has to work, a workforce to pick up assets and invest in environmentally conscious solutions.
We sometimes strip our savings completely to go forward. We respect money, if it works, but we always have enough to live off.
Any investment highlights?
I made some good investments in my life. This company is by far the best.
But also those that made my kid happy, those moments when he was amazed by something. He is very much into travelling and I live by the rule that the smile and the teardrop are worth way more than money.
Any financial blips?
I have had my ups and downs but look at them as part of life.
In business, I had a moment when I lost money. I did not look at it as failure but as something that happened because I was not looking close enough.
That reminds you to focus. I lost track of my purpose, my goal, so these days I try to concentrate on one thing … anything that comes next to that has to be in synergy.
How do you view money?
It is not crucial to have a lot to be happy. You need to have enough to live a fairly good life but I do not measure my life in monetary terms.
How we save this world from the disaster we are speeding towards is to change the direction of the flow of money.
If we can motivate people to help steer it into the right places, money would be made by the right methods, which are good for this planet.
What are you happy spending on?
Luxury for me is downtime. When you can make time to spend quality time with your kid, to relax.
Every year, we spend two weeks in a little seaside house in Croatia. Those are my most precious moments; I have time to look at the sunset.
Money can help you have adventures. We go off the beaten track, we are going to Tunisia, with a focus on the Star Wars set. In January, we drove through Jordan, slept in Bedouin tents.
Cash or cashless?
I can’t wait for the world to be cashless. I just don’t like cash in my pockets, especially in humid weather. I don’t like cards either.
I love the convenience of [payments done by] phone. It is always with you.
What are your goals?
Financially, to do what I do now, live life on the same level. And make the company bigger, for my son to inherit and, hopefully, run when I am old and grumpy.
But I still have a lot to do. I strongly believe people like me can make some difference and I want to be loud about it in forthcoming years.
I can make money any day for anyone, even for myself. But it is not about that; it is about staying alive. Not only me, other people, too.