For­mer in­vest­ment banker Mag­dalena Gatzin­ska tells Gil­lian Dun­can she thrives on fi­nan­cial in­de­pen­dence

The National - News - - BUSINESS -

As one of the first women in Wall Street to work in de­riv­a­tives, Mag­dalena Gatzin­ska en­joyed a suc­cess­ful ca­reer as an in­vest­ment banker – and made an aw­ful lot of money.

Not so long ago, she was fly­ing first class and earn­ing a seven-fig­ure salary. But, act­ing on a de­sire to launch some­thing ca­pa­ble of dis­rupt­ing in­dus­tries, she gave it all up to set up bookany­ser­vice.com two and a half years ago with co-founder Zeina Khoury.

The com­pany of­fers users a sin­gle por­tal to book any ser­vice re­lated to home care, beauty, pet care, fit­ness, and more.

Ms Gatzin­ska, who is half Pol­ish and half Bul­gar­ian but was ed­u­cated in the United States, moved to Dubai four years ago, where she now lives with her two chil­dren, ages 6 and 7.


How did your up­bring­ing shape your at­ti­tude to­wards money? A

There are two as­pects of my child­hood that helped me be­come who I am with re­spect to money.

One, I grew up in a highly ed­u­cated in­tel­lec­tual fam­ily that was also very prag­matic about money. The sec­ond thing is as a child I grew up in a com­mu­nist coun­try, so most peo­ple were equal. This sys­tem didn’t re­ward highly am­bi­tious or hard work­ing peo­ple, but it taught me pa­tience and be­ing street smart with­out com­pro­mis­ing my prin­ci­ples.

As I moved to the west I re­alised that money was im­por­tant to achieve the higher goals I set for my­self. To have free­dom to do what you want in life, you need to have money. But although I chose in­vest­ment bank­ing, and ob­vi­ously later ven­ture cap­i­tal and en­trepreneur­ship – money fo­cused sec­tors – money was never the goal. How much did you get paid for your first job?

My first job was in col­lege in the US. I was do­ing trans­la­tions from sev­eral lan­guages, and I was get­ting paid $25 an hour. I went to a top univer­sity in the US and the tuition was ex­pen­sive as it gets. Although my par­ents had the means, I wanted fi­nan­cial in­de­pen­dence, so I had to fig­ure it out. That taught me the value of money. And sev­eral years later I was get­ting paid seven fig­ures. And I think it was be­cause of this dis­ci­pline.

Are you a spender or saver?

I am a spender when it comes to ex­pe­ri­ences and travel. But I don’t like to ac­cu­mu­late ob­jects, so I am not a big spender on things. I am a very re­spon­si­ble per­son with money. I am not a per­son who en­joys shop­ping malls. I don’t buy many things.

What is your most cher­ished pur­chase?

It’s prob­a­bly the money I have spent on travel. I have trav­elled ex­ten­sively around the world, both for busi­ness and pri­vately. I have vis­ited nearly 100 coun­tries. I have skied, dived, hiked, kayaked and lived the city life in so many dif­fer­ent time zones. I feel at home any­where. If to­mor­row I dis­cov­ered a great op­por­tu­nity in a dif­fer­ent part of the world I would pick up my fam­ily and go with­out the emo­tional bar­rier of the fear of the un­known.

Where do you save?

I have a di­ver­si­fied port­fo­lio of illiq­uid and liq­uid in­vest­ments. In the pub­lic mar­ket I own ex­change-traded funds, which is the cheap­est form of get­ting mar­ket ex­po­sure, and sep­a­rately I in­vest in pri­vately held busi­nesses or ven­tures, glob­ally. I have a di­ver­si­fied port­fo­lio. I own a lit­tle bit of real es­tate. On the risky side I in­vest in highly in­no­va­tive tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies in fields that need dis­rup­tion, like Bookany­ser­vice. My part­ner and I in­vested our own money. For two years we did not bring in any in­vestors. We car­ried the risk on our own.

What is your big­gest fi­nan­cial mile­stone?

By the time I was 30 I knew that I had not only the sav­ings, but also the skill set, knowl­edge and the net­work that will se­cure my­self and my fam­ily in the fu­ture. And since I went to col­lege I have never been any­one’s de­pen­dent fi­nan­cially, not my par­ents, not my hus­band’s, ever.

If you do not know how to adapt you will live a very un­happy life and you will fail fi­nan­cially

How do you teach your chil­dren the value of money? If they want to buy some­thing, they need to un­der­stand how many hours it takes me or their fa­ther to earn the money nec­es­sary to buy that. So when my kids ask me to buy them some­thing I tell them it took me three hours to get enough money to buy this. Do you want to spend three hours play­ing with me? Or do you want this

ob­ject? Usu­ally the an­swer is play­ing with me.

Have you ever had a month where you feared you could not pay the bills?

Yes, I have had a month when I feared I couldn’t pay my tuition. Af­ter univer­sity I was work­ing full time so I never had that is­sue, but dur­ing univer­sity I feared I could not pay my tuition be­cause I was fig­ur­ing it out from quar­ter to quar­ter. I just had to find ways to make money.

Of course it’s stress­ful, but it teaches you how to cope with stress. At the time I had anx­i­ety, but I never slept until I fig­ured it out.

Do you plan for the fu­ture?

Al­ways. I don’t stop think­ing about my plans, be­cause es­pe­cially for our chil­dren, they will have to solve dif­fer­ent prob­lems. When I fin­ished univer­sity I thought “what is the best com­pany I could work for – the most rep­utable com­pany, the big­gest blue chip com­pany on Wall Street?”. Our kids will have to fig­ure out how to make money on their own. They will not be able to rely on some­one pay­ing them a salary. So I al­ways plan for the fu­ture, but my plans are ag­ile and they change with cir­cum­stances and the mar­ket. If you do not know how to adapt you will live a very un­happy life and you will fail fi­nan­cially.

What lux­u­ries are im­por­tant to you?

The big­gest lux­ury is time – hav­ing the time to spend with fam­ily and friends with­out hav­ing busi­ness stuff on my mind, or just to re­flect and be on my own for a bit. I am also set­ting up a ven­ture cap­i­tal fund to in­vest in these kinds of busi­nesses and trans­for­ma­tive tech­nol­ogy, so I am lit­er­ally sleep­ing three hours a day. Time is the great­est lux­ury.

How much do you have in your wal­let right now?

I have Dh100 prob­a­bly, and I have one debit and one credit card. I am not an im­pul­sive spender, so how much I have in my wal­let is re­ally quite ir­rel­e­vant. It is how much I have in my bank ac­count.

What car do you drive?

On a daily ba­sis I drive a Nis­san Pathfinder, although I love fast sports cars. I am an adren­a­line junkie. But I am very prac­ti­cal and I am also very mind­ful of how my two young chil­dren grow up. I do not want them to grow up as­so­ci­at­ing con­fi­dence with brands. I don’t want them driven in a Rolls Royce, I don’t want them to feel en­ti­tled to have things. They need to learn to value of money and how to make it on their own. Now that I have kids I am very mind­ful of brands. They come back and they talk and talk about the wealth of other fam­i­lies, or what cars they drive and how much they cost. And I want them to have a dif­fer­ent con­cept of value.

Do you pre­fer us­ing a credit card or cash?

I use a card, which earns miles. But I have it au­to­mat­i­cally set up to be paid at the end of the month, so I never earn in­ter­est charges. I don’t have an out­stand­ing credit card state­ment, ever. It’s like get­ting free miles. I do not use cash. We are in the 21st cen­tury and it is cum­ber­some to track your ex­penses us­ing cash. It teaches you also what you spend on. So I can look at the num­bers and re­alise where I am spend­ing.

Pawan Singh / The Na­tional

Mag­dalena Gatzin­ska gave up bank­ing to set up the web­site bookany­ser­vice

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