July 3, 2019 / 2:20 PM / 2 months ago

Woodford plans staff cuts following fund suspension

LONDON (Reuters) - British asset manager Woodford Investment Management is planning to cut staff at its Oxford headquarters in central England after the suspension of the firm’s flagship 3.7 billion pound fund a month ago.

“We have reluctantly entered into redundancy consultations with a number of staff to advise them that their roles are at risk,” a Woodford spokesman said by email on Wednesday.

The firm, run by veteran fund manager Neil Woodford, employed around 45 people at March 31 2018, when it last published accounts, the spokesman said. He declined to say which roles were affected.

Woodford had told an event for financial advisers last month that cuts would affect support staff, rather than the investment team, according to a source who attended the event.

Woodford caused an outcry among investors, which include hundreds of thousands of small savers, when he locked the equity income fund a month ago because it could not meet redemption requests, following a period of underperformance.

Link Fund Solutions, the firm’s authorised corporate director, said this week that the fund would remain suspended, without giving a reopening date.

Woodford is selling the fund’s less liquid and unlisted assets in favour of more liquid stocks so that it can reopen.

Woodford has faced criticism from investors, regulators and lawmakers for continuing to charge fees while the fund is suspended.

The fund’s 65,000 pounds a day management fee “covers a wide range of costs associated with running an actively managed fund,” Woodford said in a bulletin for financial advisers released on Monday.

“This includes the cost of fund management and also covers the costs of infrastructure and the staff across our entire business who are involved in running the fund.”

Woodford lost separate mandates to manage money for wealth managers totalling nearly four billion pounds in the days after the equity income fund suspension.

The firm manages a second, smaller open-ended fund, the income focus fund, as well as the listed Woodford Patient Capital Trust (WPCT.L).

The income focus fund, which does not invest in unlisted firms, has seen assets under management drop by nearly 40% to 295 million pounds since the suspension of the main fund, according to Morningstar data.

WPCT shares have dropped by more than 25% since the flagship fund suspension, though they were up 3.4% on Wednesday.

Reporting by Carolyn Cohn. Editing by Jane Merriman

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