Woodford apology misses the mark

What to make of Neil Woodford’s YouTube mea culpa?

In a bid to get a message out without the awkwardness of a media interview, the UK’s best known fund manager apologised to investors for the shock suspension of his fund via YouTube. https://news.sky.com/video/woodford-extremely-sorry-for-fund-suspension-decision-11735165

His advisers may have been wise to keep him away from journalists. Very few interviewees could successfully field questions around persistently poor investment decisions or his relationship with the intermediaries that promoted and then deserted him. 

But take a look at the clip and you will see it’s at least one rehearsal away from being fully fluent and Woodford consequently lacks engagement. Its far harder to connect with a camera than with an interviewer, but the muted delivery draws further attention to his solitary state, as does the upscale but empty lobby behind him.

What about the apology itself? “I’m extremely sorry we’ve had to take this decision,” he says and he certainly sounds contrite. But investors may take exception to the “had”. The only reason he “had” to suspend trading was because of his/their own bad investment decisions. That is what he should be apologising for, and then following it up with a convincing core message highlighting his determination to maximise value for his investors.

Finally, he’s chosen to wear a black sweatshirt rather than conventional business attire and his body posture is a little slumped. As one commentator reflected: “Show some respect man – wear a suit and tie and sit up straight. Would you fly on an aeroplane if the captain looked like him?”