The UK's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has broken its silence on Neil Woodford's return to fund management with confirmation that it is working alongside the Jersey regulator to share information on the new venture. 

Woodford's return to portfolio management as CIO of WCM Partners sent shockwaves through the asset management industry on Monday, with the former star manager taking on a portfolio of life sciences assets once owned by the now-collapsed Woodford Equity Income fund (WEIF).

In a statement published on Tuesday night (16 February) FCA director of enforcement and market oversight Mark Steward said that in response to reports that WCM Partners may operate out of Jersey the regulator has been in contact with the Jersey Financial Services Commission (JFSC).

"[The FCA has] agreed with [the JFSC] that we will both share information on any application made in in our respective jurisdictions (for both a fund or entity)," he explained.

Steward said that if WCM Partners was to commence any regulated activity in the UK it would first need to apply for permission, at which point the FCA would consider whether the venture 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," he added.

In reference to the FCA's own ongoing investigation into the suspension of WEIF, Steward acknowledged that the pace of the process has been a cause of "frustration among those affected by a firm or fund failure and who are, understandably, looking for answers".

"They rightly look to us to provide those answers," he added. "As a result, it is vital we investigate thoroughly and investigations are not limited at their outset."

Steward's statement followed shortly after Gina Miller's call for the Treasury Select Committee to chair an independent investigation into the collapse of Woodford Investment Management. Miller said earlier on Tuesday that the scope and delay of the ongoing FCA investigation renders any of its findings "woefully late and utterly meaningless."

Accepting that progress had been slow, owing to difficulties brought about by the pandemic, Steward said "any comment about the scope of this ongoing investigation is purely speculation", with the FCA not having confirmed "who or what we are investigating".

"[The FCA will] look at what all the evidence tells us before we make conclusions about what, if any, misconduct has taken place and who is responsible, if it has," Steward said.

"It is only then that we can assess what, if any, sanction we should put in place. It is important as the decision-makers on investigations that we do not prejudge their conclusion."

(First published by our sister title Investment Week)