Ep324: Santiago Iñiguez – Sometimes Your Worst Investment Can Bring You the Most Joy

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Guest profile

Santiago Iñiguez de Onzoño is the President of IE University and a recognized influencer in global higher education. Iñiguez is also the Vice-Chairman of Headspring, a company owned by the Financial Times and IE Business School, providing custom education programs for companies worldwide.

Iñiguez is the former Dean of IE Business School and has played a leading role in business education. He was portrayed by the Financial Times as “one of the most significant figures in promoting European business schools internationally.” He was the first European appointed as “Dean of the Year” by Poets & Quants (2017).

He is the author of “The Learning Curve: How Business Schools Are Reinventing Education” (2011), “Cosmopolitan Managers: Executive Education That Works” (2016), and “In An Ideal Business: How the Ideas of 10 Female Philosophers bring Values, Meaning, and Innovation to the Workplace” (2020), as well as co-editor of “Business Despite Borders: Companies in the Age of Populist Anti-Globalization” (2018), all published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Iñiguez is a regular speaker at international conferences and frequently contributes to different journals and media on higher education and executive development. He is one of the 500 Global LinkedIn Influencers.


“Every business opportunity is a learning experience, not just an opportunity to make money.”

Santiago Iñiguez


Worst investment ever

Santiago’s worst investment was a personal investment that he did years ago in Brazil. He participated in all sorts of real estate development in the Northeast of Brazil.

In 2007, Brazil was the land of promise and was close to holding the Olympic Games, so the government invested heavily. Many entrepreneurs came in, so Santiago participated in this personal investment because he fell in love with that piece of paradise.

Not such a rosy investment after all

While Santiago loved the investment he made in Brazil, its value has gone down with time because of the low value of the country’s currency. The Brazilian Real was about two Reals per Euro at the time. Now it is five Reals per Euro. So if Santiago tried to sell his property there now, he would definitely make a loss.

Turning his worst investment into pure gold

Santiago happened to be the only investor who built a house on the property in Brazil. He turned this spectacular house into a peaceful place where he can write and concentrate. It is now the place Santiago spends his holidays.

Even though, from an economic standpoint, the property became a damaging investment, it has rendered so many positive personal experiences that Santiago does not regret having bought it.

Lessons learned

Do not be too passionate that you forget to do your research

Do not become too passionate about investing to the point that you forget to do your research. Make sure that you get an expert’s assessment and then do your analysis.

Andrew’s takeaways

Do not buy a house if you cannot see yourself in it for the rest of your life

The rule about buying a house is that you have to walk in and feel convinced that you want to live there the rest of your life. This is because a property is a significant thing, but sometimes it can be a trap. If you buy something because of a financial aspect, then you run into a potential pitfall. So look for something that you love.

When investing in a foreign country, you are investing in two things

Anytime you are buying something in another country, you are buying two things. You buy the currency of that country and that underlying asset. Unlike buying a piece of property in your own country where you buy just the asset. A lot of people get confused or forget about that.

Actionable advice

Do not be too cautious when it comes to investing. Consider every business opportunity as a learning experience and not just a chance to make money. Allow every opportunity to be a chance to learn and develop your personality and become a better person.

No. 1 goal for the next 12 months

Santiago’s number one goal for the next 12 months is to focus on an ongoing project to grow the university. The university is now expanding its programs to become more international.


Read full transcript

Andrew Stotz 00:03
Hello fellow risk takers and welcome to my worst investment ever stories of loss to keep you winning in our community we know that to win in investing you must take risk but to win big, you've got to reduce it. This episode is sponsored by Ace dots Academy's online course how to start building your wealth investing in the stock market. I wrote this course for those who want to go from feeling frustrated, intimidated and overwhelmed by the stock market to becoming confident and in control of their financial future. Go to my worst investment ever.com slash deals to claim your discount now. Fellow risk takers This is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz and I'm here with featured guest Santiago niguez. Santiago. Are you ready to rock?

Santiago Iñiguez 00:48
Absolutely, Andrew, thanks very much for your invitation. And congratulations for the series of podcasts.

Andrew Stotz 00:54
Thank you very much. And, you know, I was really excited to get you on because you've got a distinguished background, not only in business, but mainly in academia, writing books, maybe you could just tell us like, what's the thing that you're most excited about right now in your own life when it comes to business and teaching and all the things that you're doing?

Santiago Iñiguez 01:18
Well, I was really lucky to witness the growth of first IE Business School. And then I university we are currently a very young University, just 14 years of age. But during this time, we have been able to achieve lots of things. We are truly international. And we are ranked actually among the top 25 universities worldwide in terms of employability. So we have lots of projects among them. We are opening a new campus here in downtown Madrid, in September this year, which is going to be a 35 storey building that will host most of our undergraduate programs. So lots of things happening at a university and lots of projects ahead.

Andrew Stotz 02:05
Exciting. And one of the questions I have is, I mean, you've written a lot of stuff, you've also done research over the years. And just curious, like, what is the topic or the area that is most interesting to you these days?

Santiago Iñiguez 02:21
Well, my course, the one that I teach at MBA programs, and an executive MBA has been strategy, which is what fascinates me most. I guess over the years, I was able to develop, you know, sort of strategic approach to most of the problems, business and even personnel that I face phase No. So strategy is probably what other people say it's my strengths. But anyway, I'm also interested in many other things, of course, leadership, politics, sustainability, the challenges of our world, and we are actually facing lots of challenges, many of them unpredictable. Or even if we can predict them, you know, we are not probably prepared, you know, to face them. So we live in a world which is full of challenges, but filled with opportunities as well.

Andrew Stotz 03:18
You know, that reminded me of something I remember seeing in the news a few years ago, there was a train that left Beijing that traveled across China, Russia, Kazakhstan, and into Europe. And did it end and did it complete its journey in Spain. I can't remember where with that. But do you remember that? Yes,

Santiago Iñiguez 03:41
I remember that he was a cargo. So the train know that for some reason ended? Yes, you're right. I remember that story. Lots of things happen. Probably. That was a source of very interesting, very entrepreneurial project, because actually, you know, bringing a train from China to Spain. That's a long distance. Yeah.

Andrew Stotz 04:02
It's a fascinating. And, well, maybe what we should get into now is the question. So now it's time to share your worst investment ever. And since no one ever goes into their worst investment thinking it will be. Tell us a bit about the circumstances leading up to it, and then tell us your story.

Santiago Iñiguez 04:19
Thanks very much, Andrew, for your question. But let me challenge your question. Because what I believe is that there are no worst investments. You know, if you look at intrapreneurs and I'm sure that you are very experienced at dealing with entrepreneurs, you realize that most entrepreneurs actually risk their own even their own patrimony in order to fulfill their dreams. Think about the big entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, like, of course, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, they have all challenged you know, the basic rules. They didn't actually care for financial analysis when they invest In their businesses, you probably recall that quote from Richard Branson who didn't actually distinguish between gross profit and profit, not things like, so I'm going to address your question anyway. But I would like to maybe challenge you know, what is behind this because entrepreneurs and business people realize that in order to be successful, you have to risk many, many times. And you have to go through a trial and error sorts of process. But in my case, my worst investment was actually a personnel investment that I did years ago. In Brazil, I participated in all sorts of real estate development in Northeast of Brazil. At that time, this I'm talking about the 2007, Brazil was the land of promise, it was using Stephen spikes, no words in the 30s. In the 30s, he wrote a book, which title was Brazil, land of the future. And you probably realize about the proverb that has become, you know, very common, which is, and it will always be, remains always the land of the future. But at that time, I'm talking about the almost 15 years ago, Brazil was close to an Olympic Games. Also these soccer, you know, competition, the government was investing heavily. There was lots of intrapreneurs coming in. So we participated in this business, but it was mostly a personal investment, because I fell in love with that piece of paradise, which is the Northeast of Brazil, Rio Grande is not a if you have been there, it's a land, which is very well preserved, According to NASA is has actually one of the purest terrorists on earth only after Antarctica, beaches, sandy beaches are filled with turtles, dolphins. So it's actually you know, a piece of paradise, the fact is that well, after the years, it has become a ruinous embarrassment given that they realize the currency of the time when bested there, it was something like two realize per euro, now it has become five realize per euro. So then if I tried to send my property there now, I will definitely lose, you know, value and But anyway, looking back, we very honest, the place that I have there, because I built a house, I was actually the only investor who build a house there. The other though, years after, you know, we started our investment, the other investors actually failed, you know, into lots of problems that there was a financial crisis 2007 so I was the only one building a house. So my house now there is in the middle of nowhere, of the Mata Atlantica, that forest there. So it's actually a place where I can write concentrate, there's no internet coverage. And it's actually the place where when I spend my holidays, it's actually my place. So even if from an economic standpoint, it became a ruinous invest investment. And it didn't, it doesn't make sense, you know, from a financial perspective, it has rendered so many positive personal experiences, that I don't regret about having done this. And I'm sure that this is very much applicable to many other intrapreneurs to people like I recall your conversation with US, Canada, who's the CEO of Televisa, in Mexico who had invested in a soccer team? Well, that's not a proper investment, let's be very often as you can achieve, you know, prestige, or exposure. But anyway, you don't actually gain money. No, education is another business where people feel they may, you know, get lots of returns. But the fact is that if you invest in high quality sorts of educational projects, you know, they are very long term projects, and they have long payback, you know, periods of time. But anyway, this is, you know, the example that I wanted to share with you. So,

Andrew Stotz 09:27
and how would you describe the lessons that you learn?

Santiago Iñiguez 09:32
Well, what I learned probably, was first, that, even if you think that there's lots of opportunities in a particular investment, and there were lots of very attractive things, they will all tantalizing, you know, probably the first lesson is well, check many different things, get the assessment of the experts, do your analysis. Don't become too passionate. about things. Of course, I mean, at the time that I'm talking about, which is back in 2007, we all felt that growth was something unstoppable. They were not a crisis crisis were left behind, you know, on the one year after we all, you know, jumped into this financial crisis, that again, you know, prove that the economy is circular and all the things that we now know for sure. But anyway, becoming you know, attracted by tantalizing investment is something. Again, you know, I don't repent, I don't regret about this investment. Because as I was saying, you know, I'm, I'm enjoying this already twice a year.

Andrew Stotz 10:47
Yep, yep. Great. Okay, so let me Maybe I'll summarize a couple of things I'd take away from this, you really remind me of the advice I got from my sister. Now, I didn't buy my first property until I was 40. And I waited a long time I was in Thailand, I was I didn't, you know, it was just a little bit more complicated. But I found a place that was being built near where I was staying in my apartment. And I thought, I'll get something there. I thought it was nice, you know, so I bought a place and then they built it and all that. And then it was half the size of the one that I was living in renting. And then I just realized once it was built, I don't want to I don't want to downsize to this place. And then the next thing that happened was that I started renting it out. And then I realized, I don't want to be a landlord. You know, I know about investing in the stock market. It's like, I don't want the trouble of that. And then eventually, I sold it, and I kind of just broke even on it, maybe I made a little game. But my sister is a mortgage broker. And she said, the rule about buying a place is you've got to walk in and say, I'm wanting to live here the rest of my life. And she said, if you have that feeling, that's what you need. And it's interesting, because that's a little bit of you're describing that feeling that you have with that place. And when you talked about going there and your holidays, and not having the internet coverage, being able to write being able to relax, I feel like, you know, it reminded me of that. And I think for all the listeners out there, property is a really important thing. Sometimes property can be a trap. If you buy something because of a financial aspect, then you run into a potential trap. So look for something that you love. The second thing that I take away from this is the idea that anytime you're buying something in another country, you're buying two things. If you are buying a piece of property in your own country, you're buying one thing, but anytime you're buying something in another country, you're buying the currency of that country, and that underlying asset, and I think a lot of people get confused or forget about that. So and then lastly, I just loved the word tantalizing that was it explains it very well. Anything you would add to that?

Santiago Iñiguez 13:09
No, that's that's a very good summary, you know, the things that we discussed, maybe, you know, just a further comment, of course, and we see these, you know, from intrapreneurs, and even art collectors, they don't sell even if they realize you know that they can make money with their investments, they hold on, and they don't sell, you know, their art pieces, or they don't launch IPOs of the businesses that they created and that we send their dreams not true. intrapreneurs Hold on, and keep you know, at the helm of their company, this is my feeling No. But anyway, you made an excellent summary and it was really enjoyable.

Andrew Stotz 13:53
So based upon what you learn from this story, and what you continue to learn in your life, what one action would you recommend our listeners take to avoid suffering the same fate?

Santiago Iñiguez 14:03
Well, again, you know, don't be too cautious. This is my advice, my piece of advice, because even if I realized that I that my investment was not a very smart one, you know, from a financial perspective, it has come to be you know, one of my dreams achieved, you know, I have a place where I can actually concentrate and ride and, and it's there you know, in in northeast Brazil. So the same thing applies to many other ventures that people may explore. They may reach many other objectives different to making money. And what I encourage you know, our listeners is that they consider every business opportunity as a learning experience, not just in as an opportunity to make money, but also as an opportunity to learn things and develop their personality and become Bitter people.

Andrew Stotz 15:02
It's great. And you know, it raises something that we haven't really discussed that much on the podcast, because you know, what you're talking about too, is appreciating the fact that you're going to lose times. And you're going to learn from that. And right now, there's a lot of people suffering from mistakes from problems from unfortunate circumstances that are happening because of the economic situation. And maybe a lesson that we can share from this is the idea that you are going to grow from this, you're going to learn from this. And you may even gain from this. And it's not about the money. It's about your own personal development, your own personal happiness. And let's not lose sight of that, when everything seems so difficult right now, maybe that's a key message from what you're sharing.

Santiago Iñiguez 16:03
Indeed, thing, of course, I mean, in the long term, you need to make your businesses become sustainable and profitable. But the experience of most of intrapreneurs is that there's lots of trial and error. And many times you don't get returns on your investments. No, you know, these for sure, you know, from startups. No. But anyway, you're right. I mean, this is a long term. This is a sort of marathon. things, you know, to learn on the way

Andrew Stotz 16:36
we live in learn. Last question, what's your number one goal for the next 12 months?

Santiago Iñiguez 16:42
Well, we have this fascinating project of growing up by University. So we are now expanding our pro programs becoming more international, and opening our campus in September these fall 2021. So you're all invited, I hope you can actually come and that international mobility recovers resumes. And you're all invited to come for the opening of our campus here in downtown Madrid in September.

Andrew Stotz 17:12
That's exciting. That's very exciting. All right, listeners. There you have it another story of law to keep you winning. Remember to go to my worst investment ever.com slash deals to claim your discount on my how to start building your wealth investing in the stock market course. As we conclude, Santiago, I want to thank you again for coming on the show. And on behalf of a Stotz Academy, I hereby award you alumni status for turning your worst investment ever into your best teaching moment. Do you have any parting words for the audience?

Thanks, Ender.

Andrew Stotz 17:48
You are most welcome. And that's a wrap on another great story to help us create, grow and protect our well fellow risk takers. This is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz saying I'll see you on the upside.


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About the show & host, Andrew Stotz

Welcome to My Worst Investment Ever podcast hosted by Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, where you will hear stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community, we know that to win in investing you must take the risk, but to win big, you’ve got to reduce it.

Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, Ph.D., CFA, is also the CEO of A. Stotz Investment Research and A. Stotz Academy, which helps people create, grow, measure, and protect their wealth.

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