Opinion  

Do you think that’s wise, sir?

Tony Hazell

Tony Hazell

Don’t panic! Don’t panic! Neil Woodford is leaving Invesco Perpetual.

While that may have been Corporal Jones, some reaction of pundits came closer to invoking the spirit of Private Fraser: “We’re doomed!”

Meanwhile, I get the impression some financial advisers will be more in tune with Dad’s Army’s bank manager Captain Mainwaring who would no doubt be rubbing his hands at thought of all the investment advice he could give to his customers.

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So what should we make of Mr Woodford’s decision to leave Invesco Perpetual at the end of April 2014, after 25 years?

Chelsea Financial Services immediately downgraded his funds from buy to hold going so far as to remove High Income from its Core Selection list of favourite funds.

Hargreaves Lansdown’s Mark Dampier assured clients: “We believe investors need not consider selling the fund now and I myself will be remaining invested.”

I hope he is equally forthcoming if and when he changes his mind and decides to sell.

A change of fund manager is always a worrying time for investors and their advisers; with someone of Mr Woodford’s stature it is all the more important.

He is the country’s best known manager with more than £34bn under his control.

The options are many: sit it out until the change, give the new man a try, move to a fund with an established track record, or follow Mr Woodford to his new home?

No one approach is guaranteed success: Fidelity Special Situations and Anthony Bolton being a prime example of damned if you do, damned if you do not.

Despite his success Mr Woodford is not to everyone’s taste. His preference for tobacco firms has put off some investors even if they are not of an ethical bent.

And his superstar rating has not necessarily been reflected in more recent performance. Trustnet figures show IP Income returning 80 per cent in the past five years against 81 per cent for the UK Equity Income sector average.

Over three years he has outperformed by 41 per cent to 35 per cent, but over a year he is more or less on average.

In fact the only clear period of outperformance in the past five years was in months 24 to 36.

That is not to knock Mr Woodford who has delivered fantastic returns to his long-term investors.

But there must be a feeling that he has chosen to jump ship to release him from the restrictions of steering his investment super tanker.

Perhaps before retiring he wants once again to captain a sleek racing yacht as he used to before so many leapt aboard his IP funds.