Member Spotlight: Natalie Morales-Arias
Member Spotlight: Natalie Morales-Arias
Natalie Morales-Arias walks in wearing a flowing black dress that complements her athletic yet petite frame perfectly and exudes a chic island vibe. It’s by Diesel and “the credit goes to my husband David”, she says when I compliment her on her outfit, adding that the brand has rarely let them down.
Even though her brand affiliation was not the point in question, the conviction in her voice is like a doorway to Natalie’s personality. There’s a sure sense of loyalty in the way she articulates her choices and ideas. And now as Founder and Executive Director of Palm Gate Asia, a vehicle for
introducing and directing private capital from family offices to sustainable projects in Asia, she considers it even more imperative to live by the characteristics she has honed through the years.
A DIFFERENT WORLD
Growing up in Cape Town, South Africa, Natalie was surrounded by the sun and sea. “Western Cape, like Singapore, is one of the world’s most beautiful oceanic cities, so you’re never far away from the sea. My mother also lives on a four-kilometre stretch of beach that I used to run
on every morning before breakfast,” recalls Natalie fondly. She was also a professional swimmer from the age of six to 14 and has won numerous service awards for the United Sports Association of South Africa.
Moving from there to London in 2007, as a fresh graduate of Business Science and Honours degree in Economics from the University of Cape Town, she knew that she would have a lot to get used to. However, the dramatic direction her life took, thanks to her job working
closely with family offices, was unexpected although life changing. Natalie was working with asset classes, sourcing and procuring luxury real estate, gemstones and other accoutrements of the ultra-high-net-worth class. Working with the top one-percent of wealth and power, Natalie experienced a different London to her peers—“it was very fun”, she laughs.
From business development and investment, to planning luxury holidays and coordinating the extended families’ citizenship and school applications, Natalie was doing it all. At one moment, she would be closing the deal for a hotel development on a private island, and on the other, booking a yacht or private plane charter or organising a private chef. Natalie had to be and was always a step ahead of her employer while being just a phone call away with all the details at her fingertips.
Being able to think on your feet, being honest, loyal, and commercially accurate were key, says Natalie. “It’s not about sourcing and procuring the world’s most beautiful things. They are looking to see ideas and commercial acumen in every single conversation. If not, you lose your job,” she adds, of also the cut-throat culture that pervaded such offices.
FINDING NEW DEFINITION
With this kind of immersion into an extraordinary lifestyle and exposure to unlimited resources, it is hardly surprising that Natalie decided to start her own firm. She credits her first boss for nurturing her entrepreneurial spirit and her father for insisting she only embark on projects she truly believed in.
“I was just 20 years old, and he gave me excellent resources and insights into greater wealth as well as access to different forums,” she says of her former boss. “I learnt what it means to develop, nurture and nourish long-term professional relationships with other families—not my own. It was a critical turning point in my life.”
She also started to understand the power of these conglomerates and the concept of investments for the long term. “That’s where it helped me choose who and what cause I would support because I knew that once the due diligence was done, the money would actually make an impact,” she adds.
Her desire for meaningful pursuits stirred, Natalie started dedicating her annual leave to volunteerism—including providing event services for The Elton John AIDS Foundation Winter Ball 2010 in association with Jean Paul Gaultier and helping launch Modi Enterprises, India’s, Floodlight foundation for artists alongside Frieze London 2017.
As her work involved cultural and political diplomacy, Natalie went on to obtain a few United Nations (UN) certifications to fuel her passions and complement her work. “When I was working for the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, they sponsored personal development, and because I was working with diplomats on a daily basis, I did Cultural Diplomacy and Protocol,” she explains.
INVESTING IN THE FUTURE
When Singapore came calling in the form of a proposal from her then-boyfriend David Morales-Arias, Natalie moved here without a second thought in 2019. On the heels of the pandemic and Singapore’s rising status as a “safe haven”, Natalie was exactly where she needed to be given her commercial prowess, and the nation’s Green Plan inspired her to make conservation the mission-statement of her entrepreneurial venture.
A chance to negotiate an impact contract while working with the Global CIO office in Singapore further boosted her confidence and affirmed Palm Gate Asia’s focus. Natalie had to source for an alternate energy solution—hydrogen—for a maritime services conglomerate based in Egypt. She closed the deal for the first phase of partnership between them and a US environmental technology solutions company.
“A key event in my career where I was able to combine my experience in family offices with nature conservation,” she enthuses. Natalie was able to leverage that experience in winning Palm Gate Asia’s first contract in September 2021, for a Singapore-owned private technology fund with
a sustainability focus.
In that realm, ocean conservation is topmost on her priority list, given that it is a passion she shares with her husband—“that’s why David and I joined the Club,” she explains. Post ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove’s inaugural Blue Water EduFest, Natalie has also started volunteering at ONE°15 Marina Coral Garden.
As milestones go, Natalie has already notched up a few—she has certifications in functional medicine, yoga and UX design. She also plans to get her diving and jet ski licenses this year.
She has her eyes set for a future when David and she would have their own family office—“I will chair its philanthropic arm,” she says.
Moving to Singapore has also given her a unique perspective into how wealth is perceived in Asia—the difference between flashy extravagance and discreet yet state-of-the-art indulgences.
Asia has also taught her patience and in effect broadened her horizons. “I believe my first-hand experience in liaising between the East, West and Middle East cultures inspires great strategic partnerships to be developed.”