Fallen fund manager Woodford’s return 'is a kick in the guts’

By Simon Read
Business reporter

Image source, Reuters

Fallen fund manager Neil Woodford's return is "a kick in the guts", according to one private investor.

"It's rubbing salt on the wounds of the thousands of investors who lost their money by investing in his ill-fated funds," Vishal Agarwal told the BBC.

Mr Woodford has said he will set up a new investment firm which will only raise money from professionals.

He told the Sunday Telegraph he was "sorry" for what he did wrong after investors suffered big losses.

But not everyone is convinced by the former star manager's apology.

"Should Woodford be allowed to open a new fund to professional investors? Particularly as they might not know what risks they are taking on? I think not," said Paul Resnik, chief ethics officer of the Suitable Advice Institute, an investment advice company.

"We need to see the result of the Financial Conduct Authority's analysis and the outcomes of impending court cases and class actions first," he told the BBC.

"The coroner hasn't worked out who's responsible for the dead bodies yet."

Star reputation

Mr Woodford built a reputation as a star stock picker over 26 years at the City firm Invesco.

But after he set up his own business - Woodford Investment Management - several investments turned sour, causing his flagship fund to plummet in value and be suspended by its administrator.

The events leading up to the fund's collapse in October 2019 are still being investigated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Image source, Vishal Agarwal
Image caption,
Investor Vishal Agarwal is angry at Neil Woodford's comeback

Some 16 months on, he has returned with the launch of a new investment firm, Woodford Capital Management Partners, which will be based in Buckinghamshire and Jersey, serving institutional and high-net-worth investors.

It will work alongside US investment company Acacia Research to "advise" on an illiquid and unlisted portfolio of life sciences companies once owned by the Woodford Equity Income fund.

"Neil Woodford has financed an extraordinary number of British life sciences companies over the last 20 years," said Acacia boss Clifford Press.

"When I met Neil, I knew I was standing the in the presence of a truly exceptional investment manager."


"I'm surprised at Woodford's return," Ben Yearsley, director at Shore Financial Planning, told the BBC.

"After the drubbing he has taken, it would have been easy to slip into the background. I assume he already has some professional investors lined up and they are happy with any negative publicity that ensues for backing him."

Mr Yearsley said he would not be investing any client money in the fund, "as we don't have any professional clients".

"It looks as if Woodford is looking for vindication that his original investment strategy was correct all along," said Ryan Hughes, head of active portfolios at AJ Bell.

"He clearly hopes that much of the emotion and fury that he has faced over the past two years will disappear."

But that hope is likely to be in vain, said Mr Hughes. "It looks unlikely that investors of any kind will find it so easy to forget."

For Mr Agarwal, the events left an even deeper scar and now he feels distrustful of the investment world.

"The Neil Woodford saga has raised quite a few questions regarding the dark side of the fund management industry," he said.

"Investors have been taken for a ride for too long by unscrupulous managers while fund houses seem to be busy milking gullible investors by charging exorbitant fees."