Barnett promises safe pair of hands

Invesco Perpetual’s Mark Barnett is facing the full glare of the investment industry spotlight as he steps up to inherit the largest, most successful UK equity franchise of all.

Mr Barnett, who will take on Neil Woodford’s £13.9bn High Income and £10.6bn Income funds when Mr Woodford departs in April, will also become head of UK equities at the group.

Speaking to Investment Adviser last week, the manager began to painstakingly outline his core message – that he is the most experienced member of the team after Mr Woodford and therefore well placed to fill the 25-year veteran’s shoes.

Article continues after advert

He stressed that he was not “coming at it cold”, pointing to his 17 years at Invesco.

Mr Barnett said he would be using the transition period between now and April to meet clients and become familiar with the tail-end of the equity portfolios, where numerous unquoted and esoteric investments lurk.

The manager’s interest in finance started at an early age, kickstarted by birthday gifts of shares from his grandparents.

Speaking to Investment Adviser last year, he said: “I don’t think fund management, until relatively recently, had a very high profile as a career choice. People thought about working in the City, they may have thought about going into stockbroking or into corporate finance, but fund management was the lowest profile activity.

“Certainly when I was at university in the late 1980s, nobody could name a fund manager. But it was after the Big Bang and all the privatisations – there was a lot of interest in the stockmarket at the time obviously after Black Monday.”

The manager said that after graduating with a French and Politics degree from Reading University in 1992, he got his first industry job at Mercury Asset Management and learned more about the city. He realised fund management was the “most interesting part”.

After four years at Mercury, Mr Barnett was offered the opportunity to work in Henley-on-Thames for Perpetual, now Invesco Perpetual, in 1996.

“It was very much an emerging strength in the UK retail market and I took that opportunity to go and work in a very, very small team in retail fund management, which is much more transparent than institutional fund management.”

That “very, very, small team” has become the most prominent in the UK and perhaps this changing of the guard could be the start of the rise of another Invesco Perpetual superstar.

There is, of course, the prospect that the two major funds will plummet in size as Mr Woodford’s resignation spooks his clients, whose assets amount to some £33bn.

But perhaps Mr Barnett will retain more assets than some expect and, given his track record on other funds, maybe what is lost will return.

It is important to note he has delivered top-quartile returns with his £296.5m UK Strategic Income fund in five, three- and one-year timeframes, according to FE Analytics.