Belfast Telegraph

Woodford fund controversy is a pensions 'case study'

Neil Woodford, founder of Woodford Funds, has stopped investors from withdrawing their money
Neil Woodford, founder of Woodford Funds, has stopped investors from withdrawing their money
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

The chief executive of Northern Ireland's biggest pension fund has said the controversy affecting one of the UK's most famous investors is a "case study" in the need to diversify pensions.

Last week renowned stockpicker Neil Woodford stopped members taking money out of the Woodford Equity Income Fund. The City heavyweight suffered a nightmare week after suspending the fund "to protect investors' interests" after they withdrew around £560m from it over the previous four weeks.

The fund manager has also blocked investors from viewing all but the largest holdings of his three main funds, marking a U-turn on a previous commitment to full transparency.

David Murphy, the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Local Government Officers Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC), which invests the pensions of council workers in the province, confirmed NILGOSC had no investments in any of Neil Woodford's funds.

Mr Murphy said the situation had caused "great interest in the investment sector".

"It's almost a case study in the need to diversify and the risks of investing in illiquid and unlisted companies," he said.

But yesterday, Mr Woodford's listed business has said it is "pleased" with the progress of its portfolio companies, despite a dive in its share price.

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Woodford Patient Capital Trust said it does not believe the operational performance of the portfolio businesses have been "impacted" by recent events.

Woodford Patient Capital Trust has said it believes it "continues to have the potential to deliver attractive returns", despite the subsequent slump in share value.

Susan Searle, chairwoman of Woodford Patient Capital Trust, said: "The board is closely monitoring the situation and is engaging with its shareholders and advisers."

Belfast Telegraph