Woodford Investment Management  

Woodford caves to pressure over platform switch

Woodford caves to pressure over platform switch

Woodford Investment Management has caved to investor pressure over allowing clients to switch their assets from one platform to another.

Link Fund Solutions said transfers between platforms across all share classes, but not share class conversions, will now be allowed.

Link acts as authorised corporate director of the Woodford Equity Income fund, which was suspended last month after a sustained period of outflows.

The move came after Interactive Investor wrote to Nicky Morgan, chairwoman of the Treasury select committee, criticising Link for "inexplicably" locking clients in.

The investor platform stated it had been approached by several customers wishing to transfer their account but, for "reasons not immediately obvious", Link had blocked them from doing so. 

A spokesperson for Link Fund Solutions said: "Our overwhelming priority is to protect and serve the best interests of investors.

"FCA regulations stipulate that no dealing is allowed during the suspension, which places significant obstacles to enabling a customer to move from one investment platform to another where it would mean a change of share class.

"Link Fund Solutions had already enabled investors to transfer between platforms when no such change in share class is needed.

"After lengthy discussion with Woodford, transfers between platforms across all share classes, but not share class conversions, will now be allowed with immediate effect.

"This supports investors by providing them with the freedom to move their investments between platforms."

The problem centred on the fact that Hargreaves Lansdown clients hold the Z share class offered exclusively to them whereas all other platforms hold the C share class.

Clients holding this class will now be able to open a new account on their target platform in the Z class to support the transfer.

Laura Suter, personal finance analyst at investment platform AJ Bell, said: "Investors are understandably frustrated about being stuck in the Woodford fund, but at least this move means that they can transfer their money to another platform, rather than having the whole process held up by the fund suspension.

"The fact that transfers from Hargreaves Lansdown to other platforms were being held up due to a technical share class issue was particularly annoying for investors wanting to move their money out.

"At such a stressful time for investors, this should help to ease at least some of their frustrations."

Last month the Financial Conduct Authority launched an investigation into the events which lead to the suspension of the fund in June.

Outflows reached £9m a day in May before the Kent County Council pension fund informed Woodford Investment Management it was withdrawing £255m, which was the final straw.

Woodford Equity Income held a number of unquoted investments which contributed to liquidity issues and on two occasions last year the fund breached the limit of 10 per cent in unquoted holdings for an open-ended fund, the FCA stated.

The fund was suspended for an initial period of 28 days but this has since been extended indefinitely as Mr Woodford scrambles to liquidate assets ahead of its reopening, when further redemptions are expected.