Sir Eion on Ross Asset collapse

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A Queenstowner celebrating 40 years with investment firm Forsyth Barr says the Ross meltdown is a big confidence blow. 

Queenstown-based Forsyth Barr chairman Sir Eion Edgar is shocked at the collapse of Wellington fund management firm Ross Asset Management, saying: “It’s a real tragedy for people’s confidence.” 

Receivers have found only $11 million in Ross company assets out of $450m placed by 900 investors.
Investors include at least 10 Queenstowners. 

“I couldn’t believe [Ross Asset Management] wasn’t audited when I think of the disciplines that we have to go through,” Edgar says. 

Forsyth Barr outlined those disciplines, including never allowing one person sole control of transactions, in a letter it sent to clients last week. 

Edgar says he feels particularly sorry for those who had all their funds in Ross entities. 

“You’d have to question why you’d ever put all your eggs in one basket.” 

Edgar started part-time with Forsyth Barr as a school student before joining fulltime in November 1972. 

Within months he was a partner and about five years later he became managing director. Edgar’s been chairman since 1998. 

“Forty years has flown by,” he says. 

The company has more than $2.5 billion under management, 270 staff and partners and 20 offices including one in Queenstown. 

“The reason Forsyth Barr has done so well is we’ve attracted and retained a lot of quality people. 

“The one thing I’ve contributed to is attracting and retaining those good people, because they are what builds any business, particularly our business.” 

Edgar, who shifted from Dunedin to Queenstown in 2004, says he works about 20 hours a week for Forsyth Barr, a further 10 on private business and 30 on charitable work. 

His local not-for-profit work includes the Winter Games, Queenstown Trails Trust, Central Lakes Trust and the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group. He also co-founded Queenstown Resort College. 

Edgar says he lives by the Scottish maxim that you should put back into the community that you benefit from. 

“It does disappoint me that some people who are obviously in a lot better position than even myself find they have very short hands and long pockets.”