By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – The Bank of England said on Thursday it would look at whether rules are needed to help investment funds to cope with multiple requests from customers to get their money back.
The review follows the suspension of withdrawals from the flagship fund of British money manager Neil Woodford, prompting anger among investors and an investigation by the financial watchdog.
The Bank’s Financial Policy Committee (FPC) said the Bank and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) would review how funds can offer daily redemptions while investing in assets that can take weeks or months to sell in an orderly way.
“This can create an incentive for investors to redeem when they expect others to do so,” the FPC said.
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said last month such funds were “built on a lie”.
International financial regulators have also been concerned that a customer rush for the exits from a fund could trigger a destabilising fire sale of assets. But attempts to take action at the international level have not made much progress.
The Bank’s review will look at the costs and benefits of having longer redemption periods for funds holding assets that are hard to sell.
The FPC said about $30 trillion of global assets are now held in funds that offer short term redemptions while investing in potentially illiquid assets.
The FCA has opened a formal investigation into events surrounding the suspension of the LF Woodford Equity Income Fund, managed by Woodford, one of Britain’s best known asset managers.
The around 3.5 billion pound ($4.40 billion) Woodford fund has been suspended since the start of June when it could not meet redemption requests from customers because a chunk of its assets cannot be sold quickly, leaving thousands of investors trapped.
The review by the Bank and the FCA will focus on macro threats from redemptions mainly at corporate, real estate and emerging market bond funds in normal and stressed markets.
BoE Governor Mark Carney said on Thursday that Britain needed to act because international efforts have made little headway.
The global Financial Stability Board (FSB) made recommendations in 2017 that a fund’s assets and investment strategy should be consistent with redemption terms.
“Unfortunately, subsequent work by IOSCO did not prescribe how this should be achieved and it left implementation to national authorities and funds themselves,” Carney told a news conference on Thursday.
IOSCO is a global umbrella group for national securities watchdogs like the FCA in Britain and SEC in the United States. The Bank and FCA review will seek to turn the FSB recommendations into workable measures so that investors who choose to stay in a fund are no worse off than those who want to leave.
The FCA undertook a public consultation on redemptions in commercial real estate and other funds last year and will apply any lessons from Woodford to final rule changes.
($1 = 0.7961 pounds)
(Reporting by Huw Jones. Editing by Jane Merriman)