Non-apologies are great, aren’t they? As a rhetorical device they’re hard to beat. At one stroke you can say you’ve apologised, and your interlocutor is left sputtering about how that wasn’t a proper apology, which in turn lets you come straight back with “Oh, we’re grading apologies now? Well I’m sorry you feel my apology didn’t meet your high standards.”

This one weird trick works for domestic disputes (“Well I’m sorry I didn’t clean the kitchen the way you like it”), arguments over schoolwork vs pretty much anything (“I’m sorry that I needed to play online Minecraft with my mates for six hours for my mental health and to stay connected with my friends”), racism from politicians (“If I offended Arab Americans I regret my choice of words”) and failing to procure enough PPE during a global pandemic (“I’m sorry if people feel there have been failings”).

And it works for fund managers too, or at least that’s what Neil Woodford was hoping in this pretty remarkable piece in the Telegraph last weekend. Of course, why he picked the Telegraph is anyone’s guess. Perhaps he felt the best is yet to come.

Anyway, Katrina Lloyd skewers it all pretty well here and it looks like this little trial balloon has certainly had an effect. Last night, the regulator interrupted its ongoing binge of Schitt’s Creek to publish this statement. In it, Mark Steward who is the FCA Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight (cool title) warns:

“Mr Woodford’s new business, WCM Partners Ltd, would need to apply for appropriate permissions before commencing any regulated activity in the UK. In taking any decision on whether to authorise a firm, we consider whether it is ready, willing and organised to comply, on a continuing basis, with our requirements and standards. That includes, for example, the sustainability of the firm’s business model and the fitness of its management.

There are reports that Mr Woodford’s future business proposal may operate out of Jersey. We are in contact with the Jersey Financial Services Commission (JFSC) and agreed with them that we will both share information on any application made in in our respective jurisdictions (for both a fund or entity).”

That’s regulator-speak for “it’s not us, it’s you” and also: “I know your Dad”. Quite remarkable stuff but also perhaps understandable for a regulator that’s still nursing a nasty bruise over the LC&F minibond fiasco and this total horrorshow of a statement by its ex-chief highheidyin.

So what to make of all this? Well, viewers of Billions will know that the fall of a moneyman takes careful PR management, and whoever was advising The Blessed Neil to cry about the loss of his £30m home to the Torygraph really needs to be taken for a quiet word out behind the woodshed. But that’s not a big deal, really.

Whether or not WCM Partners is allowed to start selling openly (albeit to ‘sophisticated’ investors) again rather than on a private equity basis is a big deal – but it has to be one for the Mystic Megs among you.

It is interesting how the once-feted king of fund management has become an untouchable in the court of public opinion. He’s the Wounded King, le roi blessé, wounded in the thigh and unable to lead or to be healed no matter what strategies he tries. There is only one thing left, and that’s for the people to kill him so a new king can take his place. Maybe that’ll be Nick; maybe it’ll be Terry, taking the guests fishing while Dad stays in the castle. Who knows?

What we do know is that we need monsters, and the best monsters are those who we thought were heroes. This is something that past HomeGames guest and all-round drood Jon ‘JB’ Beckett talked about at our last in-person DeadX event – the video is well worth a watch.

Sophisticated investors come in all shapes and sizes – no-one would worry if Rupes or Jules or Jonty stick a bit of the pater’s hard-earned into a bloody good chap’s biotech fund and take a bath; it’s better than Dogecoin. But non-retail investors come in all shapes and sizes and of course sometimes they look after bits of money for retail investors too. This isn’t going to be straightforward.

Nevertheless. I like my wounded kings out where I can see them, so I do sort of hope that WCM can prove it’s long, strong and physically fit in a regulatory sense. The people followed the King until it was clear to them they had to kill him, and maybe we’re not there yet. It’s just that no-one ever asked them if they wanted to invest in his fund. We’re used to investment cycles and maybe this is just a different form of one of those.

THE LINKING KING

  • Weekly HomeGames punt – we have a good one for you today. Clémence Chatelin from Paradigm Norton is a) great, b) an actual financial planner and c) a sustainable specialist. So if you want real-time insight on how planners deal with ESG, this is a must-watch. Catch it here at 12.30pm or catch up later here. Andy Bell’s session last week got a lot of love and is available to watch here.
  • Given Clémence is gracing us with her presence, it’s as good a time as any to remind you of our ESG paper which tries to get in about the issues. Worth a read.
  • I really don’t know what to make of this. I think it has to do with peanut butter.
  • Platform Analyser has a new front end and we’re very excited by it, although you can’t tell just by looking at us. Come see.
  • This is an interesting piece on pension consolidators – watch PensionBee in particular as it readies itself for a potential IPO.
  • And your music choice this week is just a wonderful thing. Ireland’s God Is An Astronaut are a band I’ve loved for a long time and their new record, Ghost Tapes #10, is great. It’s all instrumental music, and a bit noisy sometimes, but there is no detail wasted and it rewards repeat listening. Please give house room to Adrift.

See you next week

Mark