Ali Velshi, chief business correspondent at CNN, tells Matt Fleming his new book on understanding finance is aimed at Martians
It makes the world go round, so they say. And Ali Velshi, we’re sure, would agree. The anchor of CNN’s World Business Today programme has made a high-profile career out of the comings and goings of the global economy. But he isn’t a stuffy, banker type. Far from it. He’s quick-witted, vivacious and has a caring air. He cares about your money. Well, he cares enough to write his second book on the subject.
In partnership with fellow CNN anchor, Christine Romans, Velshi has just authored How To Speak Money, a book aimed at people who want to effectively talk the language of finance. The 42-year-old, who was born in Kenya and grew up in Toronto, calls himself ‘your global, catch-all business journalist’. He’s got a way with words, particularly when speaking about cash and translating its language for readers.
“This is my second book,” he says. “First was Gimme My Money Back. It was right after the financial crisis. It was very well received. This one, probably we wrote it in the course of about three months – and it’s a little bit different. I’ll just give you an example of what we’re trying to achieve – here we’re in Hong Kong. I don’t speak or read Chinese. But I eat. I’m not going to let the fact that I don’t know what’s on the menu or I don’t understand it prevent me from eating, right? I’m going to make some effort to figure it out – and in the end I’ll just chance it. People don’t think that way with money. I want people to say ‘I don’t understand it but that’s not going to prevent me from participating in it’. Because all that happens is you become fearful – you stay out of it and you lose.”
Velshi reckons the book is aimed at Martians, written for people ‘who know nothing about money and feel entirely intimidated about it’. “We’ve written this book so if you read it you will know how to speak money in a rudimentary fashion in the same way you buy a phrasebook when you travel to another country. We want you to feel comfortable and fix your finances but you can then have the conversations with your bank, stockbroker, children and spouse about how to make financial decisions about what your kid is studying, whether you’re moving, whether you’re buying, whether you’re renting, how to make a budget or investing.”
Velshi is keen to point out the book’s not aimed at the American crowd – it’s aimed at all. He says: “I’m standing in the mainstream of where commerce is being done (Hong Kong – Quarry bay, in fact) so this book is for anybody with any perspective who doesn’t feel they’re in the centre of commerce and global trade and worldwide trends. It is a discussion about trends, where the world is going, why it’s happening and how you can prosper from it.”
How To Speak Money takes different perspectives on business – from governments and CEOs down to the real people. And that includes those in Hong Kong. “Hongkongers are already smart about money,” he says. “When you live in this part of the world, money has got to be a part of the equation. It’s an expensive place to live and things are going on all around you, so whether you think about it or not, if you come here for a job, you’re thinking about money – you’re thinking you can make a good living here, there’s a future here and I think people who already know about money can benefit from the book. It’s initially for Martians but it’s also for advanced Martians. And in Hong Kong, when it comes to money, it’s advanced Martians.”
And next for Velshi? “There’s always a book in the works,” he says, “because my books are meant to provide access to my viewers for what I know, what I see, what I hear and what I experience. So as we fill up another 200 pages-worth of experience, we will put another book out as long as the viewer and the reader want greater clarity. That’s my business.”
How To Speak Money is published by John Wiley and Sons, priced $224.