Investing in Commodities (FT Press Delivers Elements)

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Most of all, though, the Woodford affair has provided further evidence that star fund managers are a dying breed in an era when investment is increasingly managed by machines that track benchmarks. In rising markets, even leading active fund managers too often underperform. Only the next downturn will prove how valuable they are in falling ones — although by then it might be too late for Mr Woodford to prove his mettle.

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Cookies on FT Sites We use cookies for a number of reasons, such as keeping FT Sites reliable and secure, personalising content and ads, providing social media features and to analyse how our Sites are used. Manage cookies. Choose your FT trial. The potential downfall of a star stockpicker has dealt a blow to active fund managers.

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Promoted Content. Close drawer menu Financial Times International Edition. Search the FT Search. World Show more World. The bigger the fund, the wider Mr Woodford began to look for investment opportunities. He took an increasing number of punts on unquoted stocks in the hope of benefiting when they finally listed.

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He also bought bigger stakes in small and midsized companies, especially biomedical businesses. This was a big departure from the unloved blue-chip companies on which he had built his stockpicking reputation. Value of unquoted stocks switched into an investment trust in a bid to reduce the illiquid portion of his portfolio.

But the freedom to operate as his own boss, and without restraint, proved a key element of his difficulties.

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At Invesco, he was part of one of the biggest fund managers in the world with layers of compliance staff to keep his more adventurous instincts in check. A succession of compliance staff passed through the business.

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As many of his top picks foundered, bankers say Mr Woodford became increasingly irritated with his investments. The performance of the Equity Income fund in particular suffered in late and into , prompting investors to demand the return of their money. To meet these redemptions, Mr Woodford was forced to sell the most easily tradable stocks, leaving a larger portion of unquoted shares and hard-to-sell stakes in small companies.

Soon the Equity Income fund was coming close to a 10 per cent limit on investing in unlisted companies. In a desperate attempt to avoid breaching the rules, Mr Woodford devised clever schemes to reduce the illiquid portion of the portfolio.

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Another workaround involved listing stakes in a handful ofprivate companies on the lightly-regulated Guernsey Stock Exchange. This technically meant they counted as listed, and theoretically liquid, investments, although in reality they were not traded as Woodford was the only holder.

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The Woodford blow-up has also drawn attention to the cosy relationships between some managers and the investment platforms that market their funds to retail investors. Hargreaves, which secured a bigger discount on fees at his funds than its rivals could offer, continued to support Woodford despite the recent record of poor performance.

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