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St James's Place ditches Woodford as manager of £3bn funds

St James's Place ditches Woodford as manager of £3bn funds

Wealth management giant St James's Place has fired Neil Woodford as manager of the £3bn of assets he ran for its clients.

SJP had been a steadfast supporter of the underperforming fund manager and had said, as recently as last week, it would stick by Mr Woodford.

But in an announcement to the stock exchange this afternoon, SJP said it had stripped him of his responsibilities as manager of the St James Place UK High Income, UK Equity, and UK Income Distribution funds. The fund have about £3.3bn of assets.

The move by SJP comes just days after Mr Woodford was forced to suspend dealing in his Equity Income fund.

Meanwhile Hargreaves Lansdown has announced it will waive its platform fee while the fund's dealing is suspended and has called on Mr Woodford to do the same.

The £3.7bn Woodford Equity Income fund was suspended on Monday (June 3) and means investors cannot sell the fund and take their cash out. They can not invest in the fund either.

The fund's suspension came following a sustained period of underperformance, which prompted investors to pull £9m a month from the fund every working day in May.

Hargreaves Lansdown removed the fund from is Wealth 50 buylist on Monday, with the £552m Woodford Income Focus fund cut from the list today.

Dealing in the Income Focus fund has not been suspended and investors can still buy and sell it.

An SJP spokesman said: "While the St James's Place funds managed by Woodford were separate mandates and not part of the Equity Income fund suspended earlier this week, the St James's Place investment committee believes these changes will ensure its clients' investments continue to be managed effectively.

"Under new management, these funds will remain as segregated mandates and St James's Place will retain responsibility for asset custody and security. There will be no impact on the investment objective for these funds. The funds' investment criteria will retain a strong liquidity profile, and remain focused on income, with a weighting to FTSE 350 stocks."

The SJP UK High Income fund has lost 17.4 per cent over the past year while its sector, the Investment Association Unclassified, gained 0.17 per cent.

The mandates to manage the funds will be split between Richard Colwell of Columbia Threadneedle, and Nick Purves at RWC.

Both of those managers already run separate mandates for SJP clients, with Mr Purves the longest-standing fund manager, running the SJP Equity Income fund.

david@thorpe@ft.com