This month marked one year since the collapse of Neil Woodford’s LF Woodford Equity Income fund. The Woodford fund was suspended in June, after it became overwhelmed by redemption requests from investors. One year on and investors are still awaiting their final pay-out. One year on and questions concerning the liquidity mismatches in open-ended funds still remain.
As discussed in previous blogs, later this year new FCA rules for open-ended funds investing in inherently illiquid assets enters into force. The new rules concern non-UCITS retail schemes (NURS) that invest in inherently illiquid assets. Although the new rules are relevant to anyone with an interest in open-ended investment funds that are likely to hold illiquid assets, here we will be focusing on the enhanced oversight of depositaries.
On 31 March 2020, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) announced that it was delaying the first reports by money market funds managers under the Money Market Funds Regulation (MMF Regulation) until September 2020. The original date for submissions was April 2020. The delay was due to an update to the XML schema.
Money market funds (MMFs) are an important part of the European and global investment fund landscape and perform an essential role as a cash management and liquidity tool. They are a type of collective investment fund where households, corporate treasurers or insurance companies can obtain a relatively safe and short-term investment for surplus cash. They have preservation of capital and liquidity as their primary objectives.
Liquidity risk was amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic with regulators introducing a number of initiatives to mitigate the corresponding risk. However, it’s not the only area which has seen increased attention as a result of COVID-19. As summarised below, despite the G20 commitment to “support global trade and investment” during the pandemic, foreign investment restrictions have been on the rise.
Fund liquidity problems witnessed in 2019 with Woodford and H2O Asset Management brought liquidity back into the spotlight. Since then, the focus hasn’t really faded on the issue of liquidity, and if anything, has intensified with the COVID-19 pandemic causing market volatility resulting in several more fund suspensions.
Although 2020 has already seen a number of initiatives intended to address liquidity risk, there are still more to come, with September due to be a particular busy month for risk management professionals.
It seems that ‘liquidity risk’ is the prevalent term on everyone’s lips these days. Following a turbulent 2019, with several high-profile fund suspensions, it is perhaps no surprise that liquidity is a 2020 priority for most regulators.
Firms must have appropriate systems, controls and governance to oversee and manage liquidity risk. With the New Year well and truly underway, regulators across the globe have started publishing their priorities for the year ahead. Unsurprisingly, liquidity risk appears to be high up on most of their agendas