Is Neil Woodford really as good as everybody says?

The old songs are the best, they say. Investors have been singing the praises of ace fund manager Neil Woodford for so many years it would be a shame to stop now. But is he still in tune with the times?

What Neil did next

You’ve heard this song before. Neil Woodford is the man who ran the hugely successful Invesco-Perpetual Income and High Income funds for more than two decades. Now here’s the showstopping number. He’s the man who turned £10,000 into £114,000 in 20 years. That’s quite a hook.

The danger with a catchy chorus like this one is that it gets stuck in your head long after the tune has changed. So forget what he’s done in the past, what counts is what he does next. What Neil Woodford did next, of course, was to go solo with his very own fund management house extravaganza, with CF Woodford Equity Income the stand-out track, released almost exactly two years ago in June 2014. What investors did next was plough huge sums of money in, hoping Woodford could repeat his start turn. The fund attracted record inflows of £1.6bn during its initial offer period.

He stole the show

This was good box office, and the fans weren’t disappointed. If you had invested £10,000 at launch in June 2014 you would have made a profit of £2,004 within a year, easily doubling the average return in the IA UK Equity Income sector and more than tripling the return of the FTSE All Share. By that time, the fund held £6.2bn of private and institutional money, due to strong inflows and strong performance. The crowd was roaring in the aisles.

So with Woodford Equity Income nearing its second anniversary, has our man kept the show on the road? This has been a tougher time for all investors, and Woodford is no exception. Over the past 12 months, his fund is up a less than dazzling 0.6%, according to figures from On the other hand, his benchmark sector fell -3.5%, while the FTSE All Share is down -6.1% and the FTSE 100 has fallen -7.1%.

Money man

Taken over the two full years, Woodford is equally impressive. Figures from show that since June 2014 his fund is up 17.4%. This is more than double the 8.5% return for investors clinging on to the maestro’s former theatre, Invesco Perpetual High Income, which is clearly missing his star quality. Woodford has also outshone his peers, with the equity income sector up just 2.4% in that time and the FTSE down -3.5%.

This means that Woodford has stolen the show by dramatically outperforming during the good times, then done his fans a second (and arguably more impressive) service by protecting the value of their holdings during the bad times.

I initially thought of headlining this article: Neil Woodford shows his class again. But I decided to keep you all in suspense. The last two years suggest that Woodford really is as good as everybody says. The man can turn on the style, but more importantly for investors, he backs it up with substance. Woodford is singing the same old song and it’s as catchy as ever.

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Harvey Jones holds units in CF WoodfordEquity Income and Invesco-Perpetual High Income. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.