Cleaning up after the crisis

Kathleen Brooks
BEING an entrepreneur is in Celestino Amore’s DNA, both his father and grandfather had their own businesses. “I knew that I would start something on my own, it was just a matter of when.” The moment came in January 2009 when Amore founded Illiquidx, a financial services boutique that specialises in distressed assets.

As its name suggests, Illiquidix provides liquidity solutions for assets that are traditionally illiquid, such as distressed debt, bankruptcy claims, illiquid high yield bonds and also mortgage-backed securities. “There are so many of these assets around especially since the collapse of Lehman Brothers,” says Amore. “Before we came along, the market for illiquid securities was opaque and inefficient, but we have created an independent, transparent and regulated market place where buyers and sellers can enter into transactions at realistic prices.”

Amore believes that now, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, is the right environment for boutique financial firms like his to flourish: “Smaller players have been able to come into this market because the trust in large financial organisations has been lost.”

He is not afraid of extolling the virtues of Illiquidx. By providing a transparent platform for distressed assets it is helping to cleanse the financial system: “These assets need to be valued at a market price and then sold on to get the economy going again, without that we can’t recover from the crisis.”

Illiquidx was started with Amore’s own funds and those of his business partner, Galina Alabatchka. During the past year growth has been exponential. The client base has grown to over 650 institutional investors.

Likewise, Illiquidx’ staff has grown from two people at the start to 20 in order to keep pace with the increase in its business. Its staff are an international bunch, which is a huge asset for Illiquidx: “We can talk to each client in their own language, no matter where they come from,” says Amore, who was born and raised in Italy.

However, he is passionate about London, the adopted home where he has lived for the past 12 years: “I went into finance in the first place because of my granddad’s stories about London as a global financial hub. There is nowhere in the world like it.” Rather than be put off by the recent tax hikes and greater regulation for the financial sector, Amore is certain that London will survive as the world’s leading financial centre: “Like a phoenix arising from the ashes, London will come back stronger than ever before.”

Amore’s grand plan is to help kick-start the financial system after the worst crisis in decades. He can’t do it single-handedly, but he hopes that Illiquidx will be at the heart of London’s next generation of financial services companies.

Age: 38

Studied: Polytechnic of Turin, Italy and London Business School, UK

Reading: Why Iceland?: How One of the World's Smallest Countries Became the Meltdown's Biggest Casualty, by Asgeir Jonsson Amore has worked in finance since 1998. He traded distressed assets for AdviCorp, and has worked for HSBC and Morgan Stanley, all based in London. When he was younger he wanted to be a commercial airline pilot.