Investors vote to move funds from Knight

BY JOHN WILLCOCK

Financial Correspondent

More than 12,000 investors in funds run by Knight Williams, the independent financial adviser specialising in advice to the retired, voted in favour yesterday of transferring the funds to the merchant bank Singer & Friedlander.

The overwhelming vote in favour followed 15 months of complaints by more than 280 Knight Williams clients. The rescue scheme in tandem with the Securities and Investments Board will involve the dissolution of the five funds run by the intermediary. The assets will be transferred to Singer's range of open-ended investment funds.

Tony Fraher, chief executive of Singer & Friedlander Investment Funds, said he was delighted by the vote. "This brings down a curtain on what has been a difficult situation."

He said the emergency general meetings - one for each of the five funds - lasted two and a quarter hours, longer than expected, as investors were keen to quiz Singer on what their new entitlements would be.

Singer will pay about £17m for the right to manage the £400m funds. It will not buy any of the Knight Williams businesses. Much of the cash will go to pay off complainants, who are going through a claims scheme run by the SIB and the supervising accountants, Ernst & Young.

The handover follows a long campaign by the 350-strong Knight Williams Investors Action Group. Its complaints against the financial adviser concern high charges, poor returns and inappropriate products.

Mr Fraher said that the worst vote yesterday was 98.6 per cent in favour of the transfer, the best 99.5 per cent in favour. Of the 20,000 Knight Williams investors entitled to vote, more than 60 per cent did so.

As part of the deal, Singer will cut annual management charges by 40 per cent, which could represent an average saving of £200 a year on a £20,000 holding.

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