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Ganley and Gurdgiev launch new Swiss asset management company

St Columbanus AG will manage clients’ investments in a cautious, conservative and transparent manner, its founders say.

Image: James Horan/Photocall Ireland

BUSINESSMAN DECLAN GANLEY and economist Constantin Gurdgiev – who are two of the country’s most outspoken critics of the EU/IMF bailout – have launched a new asset management agency based in Switzerland, in a move they say will help to “purge” insolvency from the European banking system.

St Columbanus AG, of which Ganley is chairman and chief executive, aims to manage the funds of its clients in a “conservative, transparent manner” as an antidote to the high-risk strategies pursued by others which can put wealth at risk, he said.

“We’re focused on a conservative approach to asset protection – if you like, a defensive strategy,” Ganley told TheJournal.ie. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or an economist to understand we’re in the midst of a hurricane.”

Gurdgiev, who will leave his current position at IBM next month to become the institution’s head of research, added that the new venture’s investment products would be “completely transparent, and completely conservative – not for high-risk high rollers, but instead for hard-earned money to be safe”.

The pair said the business was being set up in response to consumer demand for more secure investment opportunities, with other options “collapsing – not because there is not enough savings, but because people don’t feel secure,” Ganley said.

While Ganley – better known in Ireland for his involvement in the Libertas movement that campaigned against the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty – acknowledged that there “has to be some nobility of purpose” about the company’s motives, St Columbanus was “a business first and foremost”.

It will seek to make a profit, and be profitable. That’s what capitalism is. Some people might say, ‘Are we seeking to take advantage of banks and asset management companies and their own problems?’ The answer is, ‘Yes, we are.’

St Columbanus would not have any “skeletons in its closet” having not existed throughout the financial downturn, he added.

Gurdgiev added that the Swiss banking system had survived the global banking crisis stronger than most, and said the strength of the Swiss regulatory system would help the company to attract investment.

Ganley dismissed suggestions that the business could harm European institutions by attracting funds away from Eurozone banks, saying the “so-called smart money” had already been withdrawn from weaker financial institutions.

“Anybody who has assets to manage is entitled to shop around, to make up their own minds, to listen to alternatives and consider offers from competitors. We will offer alternatives and choices, and you make your own decisions.”

St Columbanus would give customers the option of putting their cash into European projects or elsewhere, but Gurdgiev said that the European economy would ultimately benefit from the company’s actions – because it would identify profitable companies into which its funds could be invested.

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Gavan Reilly

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