Neil Woodford: Wielding Wealth with Wisdom

Neil Woodford: Wielding Wealth with Wisdom

By Charles Joseph | Editor, Financial Affairs
Reviewed by Corey Michael | Senior Financial Analyst

Neil Woodford is a distinguished British fund manager. Born in 1960, he established himself in the investment world while working at Invesco Perpetual, overseeing two of the UK’s largest investment funds. Woodford is known for his long-term investment strategies and contrarian approach, often going against conventional market trends. In 2014, he founded his own investment firm, Woodford Investment Management. Despite immense initial success, it faced a downfall and was forced to close in 2019 after a series of controversial investments soured. Despite this setback, Woodford’s impact on the UK investment scene is significant. He remains a key player in financial discussions due to his vast market experience and knowledge.

1. Neil Woodford’s Career Rise at Invesco Perpetual

Neil Woodford started his investing career in 1981 at the Dominion Insurance Company, but his significant breakthrough came at Invesco Perpetual. He joined the firm in 1988, and worked there for 26 years, managing two of the UK’s biggest investment funds.

By focusing on a long-term investment strategy and demonstrating a knack for selecting high-performing stocks, he earned a reputation as one of the most successful fund managers in the UK. Under Woodford’s management, the Invesco funds consistently outperformed the market over several years, catapulting him to industry recognition and prominence.

Woodford’s tenure at Invesco Perpetual significantly surpassed typical fund manager tenures, reflecting his enduring success and the trust investors placed in him. His departure from Invesco in 2014 to start his own fund marked the end of an era and a significant shift in the UK’s investment landscape.

2. The Launch and Downfall of Woodford Investment Management

After leaving Invesco, Woodford launched his own firm, Woodford Investment Management, in 2014. The firm had a very promising start, attracting billions in assets from investors who admired his extensive track record and innovative strategies.

Unfortunately, this success was short-lived. Woodford Investment Management came under scrutiny due to a series of controversial unlisted and illiquid investments. When the fund’s performance failed to live up to investors’ expectations, redemptions accelerated. The fund’s inability to sell its illiquid holdings to fulfill these redemption requests led to a liquidity crisis.

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In 2019, the firm was caught in a detrimental downward spiral, culminating in the closure of Woodford Investment Management. This represented a dramatic turn in Woodford’s career, serving as a reminder to investors about the possible risks associated with illiquid investments and over-concentration in single funds.

3. Woodford’s Contrarian Investment Approach

One of the defining aspects of Neil Woodford’s investment style is his contrarian approach. This means he often makes investment decisions that go against current market trends. This method allowed him to uncover undervalued or overlooked investment opportunities that many fund managers might have missed.

While this approach has been successful for Woodford in the past, particularly during his time at Invesco Perpetual, it also comes with its own set of risks. The stock market is unpredictable, and going against the grain can sometimes lead to significant losses, as evidenced in the downfall of his own firm, Woodford Investment Management.

Regardless, Woodford’s contrarian approach made him a unique figure in the investment world and will likely continue to influence his investment decisions. Despite the setbacks he experienced, Woodford’s approach still serves as an interesting study for modern investors looking to learn alternative strategies in the ever-changing financial landscape.


Neil Woodford has had an impactful career in investment management, from his successful tenure at Invesco Perpetual to the sobering lessons from the downfall of his own firm. His unique contrarian approach and his resilience in the face of adversity remain noteworthy and continue to influence modern investment strategies.

Key Takeaways

  • Neil Woodford’s career began to shine at Invesco Perpetual where he managed two of the UK’s largest investment funds.
  • In 2014, he ventured out to establish his own firm, Woodford Investment Management, which initially drew billions in assets but later faced a downfall due to controversial investments.
  • Woodford’s investment strategy is characterized by a contrarian approach, often going against conventional market opinions and trends.
  • Despite the setback at his firm, Woodford’s vast market experience and knowledge make him a significant figure in financial discussions.
  • His career offers valuable lessons to investors about the associated risks of illiquid investments and over-concentration in a single fund.
  • Related Questions

    1. What contributed to the initial success of Woodford Investment Management?

    Woodford’s reputation and track record in fund management attracted significant investment to his firm. His decision to focus on undervalued companies and employ a contrarian approach also contributed to the initial success of Woodford Investment Management.

    2. What challenges caused the downfall of Woodford Investment Management?

    The firm faced liquidity issues due to a series of controversial investments in unlisted and illiquid assets. As these investments underperformed and redemptions requests increased, the firm couldn’t sell its illiquid holdings quickly enough, leading to its downfall.

    3. What is a contrarian investment approach?

    A contrarian approach to investing involves going against current market trends. Contrarian investors often seek out undervalued or overlooked investment opportunities that others may dismiss. Despite the associated risks, it can prove successful when used wisely.

    4. How did Woodford’s contrarian approach influence his career?

    Woodford’s contrarian approach led to some of his most successful investments. At Invesco Perpetual, it helped him outperform the market consistently. Despite the downfall of his own firm, this approach still influences his investment decisions and his influence in the investment world.

    5. What are some lessons investors can learn from Woodford’s career?

    Woodford’s career highlights the importance of diversification and the risks associated with a high concentration in a single fund or illiquid assets. It also emphasizes that market scenarios can change quickly and strategies that have been successful in the past might not always yield the same results.