BLOG: Why Woodford’s exit is the best news of the year

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In a way, the departure of Neil Woodford from Invesco Perpetual was a strangely subdued affair. I feel slightly cheated.
BLOG: Why Woodford’s exit is the best news of the year

I always thought that when he left it would be with more noise but, in fact, his departure was trumped by the announcement the chief executive of Burberry, Angela Ahrendt, is off to Apple.

No disrespect to Woodford, but Miss Ahrendt is a lot more photogenic, which probably explains why she got more coverage and, as many fund managers would tell you, she has done a great job turning an ailing brand into a global brand.

But Burberry’s market cap is only a fraction of Woodford’s assets under management, so who should really be feted as a champion of business?
Woodford offered a promise and delivered, while Burberry offers a coat. What has got more economic value?

I would like to take a slightly contrarian view of Woodford’s decision to step down next April and set up his own company.

It is arguably the best piece of news the industry has seen for many years. Not because he is not a fine manager – he is, and there is no reason to think he will not be when he runs ‘Woodford Asset Management’.

It is good news because it opens the sector right up again and,from a business perspective, makes the IMA categories in which his funds sit more competitive.

If I was an adviser, it would be the easiest opportunity to go and talk to clients and add some value. If I had an adviser, I would welcome him giving me a ring or dropping me an email with a few thoughts.

I will have to take the decisions myself because, along with virtually everyone else, I have got investments in his funds, albeit for my children.

It was an easy decision to invest, as it was a core in their little portfolios. Frankly, I did not think I would need to do anything with it for at least another decade.

So should I move or should I stay? When I have figured it out, I will let you know, but what it does mean is I will be poring through the stats, compiling a list of funds I like that could take his place.

I say this without any knowledge of what exactly Woodford might offer to smaller individual investors like me when he is running his own firm.

His move, like that of Richard Buxton from Schroders to Old Mutual, once again highlights the concentration risk, but in Woodford’s case it is a multiple we have not seen before.

If you look at a chart of the ten largest funds sold across Europe, you will see portfolios in excess of £10bn, but roughly split in terms of those funds genuinely run on a team basis – Standard Life’s GARS or the Templeton Bond funds – and those that are more focused on a single manager, such as M&G Optimal Income.

Post Lehmans, we have seen this huge concentration on individual funds within individual sectors, which surely is not healthy.

Invesco Perpetual will miss Woodford, and little investors like me might also, but in terms of opening up his £30bn of assets to competition, it is the best piece of news the industry has had for a decade.

Lawrence Gosling is editorial director of Incisive Media. His views are his own, any comments to him at

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