June 13, 2019 / 12:04 PM / 5 days ago

Equity funds better off sticking with blue chips - BoE

LONDON (Reuters) - Equity funds that stick to blue-chip shares cope best with calls from investors for their money back, a senior Bank of England official said on Thursday as fallout from the suspension of top UK fund Woodford continued.

FILE PHOTO: A worker shelters from the rain under a Union Flag umbrella as he passes the London Stock Exchange

Alex Brazier, the BoE’s executive director for financial stability, said it was striking that the more illiquid or difficult to trade the assets in a fund were, the more aggressively its investors withdraw their funds as prices of the assets fall.

“When a fund holds assets traded almost instantly on exchange – like blue-chip equities – investors tend to sit on their hands,” Brazier said in a speech.

“Liquidity isn’t costless,” Brazier he added.

Last week in Britain fund manager Neil Woodford suspended his flagship equity fund. Some of the companies it has invested in are illiquid and listed on an exchange in Guernsey.

Brazier did not name Woodford in his speech.

“Of course, redemptions can be suspended – funds can be gated – to limit the selling pressure. But such measures are a double-edged sword,” Brazier said.

“They can allow time for an orderly re-structuring of a fund, avoiding unnecessary fire sale pressure, but the expectation that such measures could be imposed tomorrow can create an incentive to be at the front of the redemption queue today,” Brazier added.

Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority is finalising rules for funds investing in illiquid assets, but it was also a global issue, Brazier said.

“Macroprudential authorities across the world will need to review new global asset management rules. An assessment is needed of whether they will be effective in dampening any restriction to the supply of finance during economic downturns,” Brazier said.

He said Britain’s big current account deficit represented its biggest underlying economic vulnerability, recalling how BoE Governor Mark Carney has previously warned of the reliance on “the kindness of strangers”.

Reporting by Huw Jones and William Schomberg; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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