Investments  

A peek behind the scenes at Neil Woodford’s new venture

A peek behind the scenes at Neil Woodford’s new venture

Ostentatious is not a word you would use to describe the offices of arguably the UK’s highest-profile investor.

Inside, those behind Woodford Investment Management haven’t quite gone as far as beanbag chill-out zones, but the vibe is more laid-back ad agency than serious, dour money management.

Neil Woodford and the majority of his colleagues are in attire more casual than one might have expected, but the look fits in with the coffee bar at the back of the office.

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There is, however, serious work going on.

Mr Woodford’s portfolio managers Stephen and Paul Lamacraft and Saku Saha are suited and booted and drilled in their boss’s investing mantra, which has helped him achieve such prominence.

In a corner of the open-plan space sits chief executive Craig Newman’s office, which, with its copious amount of scrawlings on the walls, resembles a scene from a US crime drama, such as Homeland or CSI.

The inner workings of his mind have quite literally been scatter-gunned onto the walls.

There is writing directly on the glass panels that surround his office, Post-it notes covered with various scribbles, and a circular list of tasks that need to be started, are underway or completed.

The location of the office, on a business park on the outskirts of Oxford, was chosen in large part because it allowed Mr Newman to implement the “culture” he wanted to create at the firm. He even donned overalls at one point, painting the office to ensure the company would launch on time.

There is an investment angle to the location as well. Mr Woodford is looking to strengthen his links with, what he refers to as, “the best university in the world”, Oxford University, having previously invested in businesses that have spun-out of the academic institution.

He praised the university’s achievements in areas such as medical science, a sector in which he is a keen investor, and predicted the city would “continue to supply some great investments”.

The office is in the same building as business psychology consultancy Pearn Kandola and tech firm Blinkbox, while nearby is the main Mini car plant and various scientific institutions.

The vernacular Mr Newman uses to describe the company may, even by his own admission, “seem very heady”, what with the business being “agile” and its team working on “projects”.

There are moves to “break down barriers” by virtue of the company’s lack of what it sees as unnecessary hierarchies, while consultants are used where it is felt a permanent member of staff isn’t necessary.

Moreover, in place of conventional meetings, there are short 20-minute “scrumming” sessions – quick-fire updates on how those “projects” are progressing.

The company also appears keen to communicate with its clients in a different way to its rivals. Its website is straightforward, blog posts are published regularly, and it’s been disclosing its full portfolio of holdings on a monthly basis.