Simon English: Will outspoken Mr Buxton continue to talk out loud when he joins Old Mut?

Simon English
Thursday 18 April 2013 00:03

Last month Richard Buxton suddenly quit as head of UK investment at Schroders, the venerable City fund-management house which commentators can seldom resist describing as "blue-blooded".

Schroders insists the departure was amicable and they wish him all the best. The standard line.

Industry watchers say his leaving is a blow to Schroders and that his arrival at Old Mutual is a coup for the South African insurer.

No kidding.

In so far as there are household names in fund management, Schroders is one of them. And over 11 years Mr Buxton had built up a reputation as one of those rare managers who can genuinely create value for clients over the long term.

By common consent, he is really good at his job.

So with all the respect that may be due to Old Mutual (a bit), a move there is not what you would call a step up. More like being transferred from Liverpool to Leicester.

Why did he go?

The word on the street is that Schroders was somewhat less than impressed by Mr Buxton's vocal support of Nat Rothschild in his acrimonious battle with the mining company Bumi.

Indeed, Schroders thinks he rather exceeded his own authority in swinging the firm's considerable weight behind such a controversial figure.

Last week, not long after the news that Mr Buxton was going had emerged, Schroders flipped its stance. The firm said it had "re-engaged" with the board of Bumi and now backed the directors rather than Mr Rothschild.

Which makes it fairly plain that Schroders thought Mr Buxton was in the wrong.

Schroders says there's no connection between the Bumi issue and Mr Buxton's move. Mr Buxton himself takes the trouble to call and say the same, so fair play for that.

On this occasion, let's air the rumour mill too. Just to see what follows.

In the meantime, influential investment advisers Hargreaves Lansdown has removed Mr Buxton's £3.6bn UK Alpha Plus fund from its list of favoured funds due to the loss of the manager.

It will be interesting to see if Mr Buxton continues to be quite so outspoken at his new employer.

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