Jeff Prestridge  

Learning from Woodford

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

Unless that all happens, investors caught up in the scandal will feel perpetually cheated – and the industry’s reputation will remain sullied.

Outside of Woodford, it is obvious that the investment funds industry should be subject to more rigorous rules.

I simply do not believe that unquoted businesses (unquoted assets) should now be allowed to be held in an open-ended investment vehicle. Unquoteds are for investment companies and investment trusts – listed on the UK stock market – to invest in. Full stop, end of matter.

I also believe the rules and disclosure requirements on illiquid holdings should be tightened.

I went to a presentation last week by Alex Wright, manager of Fidelity Special Situations and sister fund Special Values.

I was intrigued by a statistic included in the presentation that showed how quickly the fund’s portfolio (that of Special Situations) could be turned to cash in the case of a Woodford-like spike in redemptions.

It showed that nearly 20 per cent of the fund’s assets could be traded to cash within a day. In other words, the fund’s portfolio is healthily liquid.

Surely, such a statistic should be included in all monthly fund factsheets, thereby giving investors a sense of how easy or difficult it could be to exit?

Furthermore, it is time, surely, for fund groups to reassess the amount of an individual company they can own.

Fidelity limits it to 10 per cent across its funds, but some competitors such as Invesco have a higher limit of just below 30 per cent.

This can present all kinds of problems when the company’s market capitalisation is limited and the shares illiquid.

Offloading such positions – as Mr Woodford found out – can be extremely difficult.

Finally, investment funds should do what they say they aim to do on the proverbial tin.

If a fund labels itself as UK equity income, it should be investing in dividend-friendly UK companies, not in start-up businesses where dividends are furthest from directors’ minds.

One for the Investment Association, prodded by the regulator, to get its teeth into.

Jeff Prestridge is personal finance editor of The Mail on Sunday