Daily Mail

One of the hardest years for investing in memory

As market turmoil rocks Abrdn, boss bemoans . . .

- By Mark Shapland

ABRDN swung to a loss in what its boss called ‘one of the hardest investing years in living memory’.

The FTSE 100 listed Scottish investment house’s poor performanc­e came as it battled adverse markets, rising client defections and a difficult stock-picking environmen­t for its money managers.

Under pressure chief executive Stephen Bird said: ‘The global economy changed dramatical­ly during 2022.

‘Almost all asset classes dropped in value as the cost of money soared to quell the rising tide of inflation.

‘The world in which we and our clients are operating today is radically different from the environmen­t of the past decade.’

His comments followed a dismal set of results in which the Edinburgh-based Abrdn posted a loss of £615m for 2022 following a profit of £ 1.1bn the year before.

Net outflows from its funds hit £10.3bn as clients pulled their money out – far worse than the £3.2bn it recorded in 2021.

The core investment­s division – the biggest part of Abrdn’s business – saw assets under management shrink by 19pc to £376bn as the value of many equities and bonds fell in the face of rising global interest rates. It came as Abrdn’s fund managers battled soaring inflation following Russia’s

‘A more radical strategy is needed’

Under pressure: Stephen Bird is chief executive of Edinburgh-based Abrdn

invasion of Ukraine, which forced central banks to hike rates at a historic pace to keep prices from spiralling out of control. As a result, investors headed for the exit and markets fell around the globe. The Dow Jones lost 9pc last year, the S&P declined 20pc and the Nasdaq was off 33pc. The FTSE 100 was the only major index to eke out a gain, up 1pc.

Abrdn rivals Jupiter and Schroders suffered similar fates as the stock-picking trade struggled to find winners amid huge geopolitic­al uncertaint­y and recession fears.

John Moore, investment manager at RBC Brewin Dolphin, said: ‘Outside oil, wider energy and some bank stocks everything else was deemed high risk.

‘A high inflationa­ry environmen­t makes it difficult for mid and small cap stocks, which are not generating huge cash. With no end to the Ukraine war in sight this is likely to continue.’

Abrdn is not the only big name to take a hit – notably star stock pickers Terry Smith and Nick Train also struggled to negotiate markets last year.

Back in January, Smith ( picturedri­ght) launched a scathing attack on central banks for a prolonged period of ‘ easy money’ and warned that they now risked tipping the global economy into recession as interest rates continue to rise to tackle sky-high inflation.

His flagship Fundsmith Equity fund suffered a 13.8pc drop in 2022. Moore added: ‘Terry had a tough time.’

But a handful of money managers have defied the strife, including Man Group and St James’s Place (SJP).

Man yesterday posted profits up 18pc to £779m for 2022 after the world’s largest publicly traded hedge fund firm saw assets under management climb to £118bn at the end of the year. Likewise SJP posted a rise in annual profit, underpinne­d by strong new business flows. Analysts said that Man benefited from its computerdr­iven macro funds, while SJP has developed a very strong retail business. But Abrdn – which remains one of the biggest fund managers in the UK with £500bn of assets and about one million small shareholde­rs – has plenty of work to do.

Born out of the unhappy merger of Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management in 2017, the firm hired Bird from Citigroup in 2020 to restructur­e the investment giant. Under the former investment banker the firm has closed funds at a rapid pace as well as selling off assets.

Yesterday it announced the sale of its discretion­ary fund management arm to a Liechtenst­ein-based private bank for £140m.

But while some of the restructur­ing under Bird appears to be paying off and the firm’s Interactiv­e Investor acquisitio­n last year has proved fruitful, for many in the City the turnaround is not taking place fast enough and patience is running thin.

David McCann, analyst at Numis, said: ‘We continue to think that a more radical strategy is needed to turn the group around and to maximise value, such as the break-up of the group with capital being returned to shareholde­rs, or sale of the group in full.’

 ?? ??
 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom