Britain’s most famous fund manager, Neil Woodford, is leaving Invesco after a 25-year stint to set up his own fund company.
His two main investment vehicles, the Invesco Perpetual High Income and Income funds, contain a joint £24bn. If you’d invested £10,000 in these funds in 1990, it would now be worth a respective £232,400 and £182,500.
What the commentators said
So how did Woodford produce these sensational gains? In the past 15 years, said Brian Dennehy of Fundexpert.co.uk, he has made “the biggest and longest bet in fund management history”: a consistently large overweight position in defensive equities, notably utilities, tobacco and pharmaceuticals.
This has proved the right call in the structural bear market and rocky economy of the past decade-and- a-half. Woodford had the strength to stick to it even when he lagged his competitors badly – when he avoided tech stocks in the late 1990s, for instance, or refused to buy banks in the run-up to the credit bubble bursting.
It’s hard to imagine any other manager having “the foresight to begin this strategy”, said Dennehy, and “the fortitude to continue with it over such a prolonged period”.
Recently, however, Woodford has become “a victim of his own success”, said Kyle Caldwell on Telegraph.co.uk. In recent years the funds have become too large and unwieldy for him to maintain his run. His bigger holdings contain enormous quantities of shares.
For instance, it took several months for him to sell his entire stake in Vodafone earlier this year. Managers in charge of less money can nip in and out of stocks much more quickly and thus snap up “fleeting opportunities”. You can see why Woodford feels the time has come to strike out on his own.
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