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Chair of former Woodford trust receives 15% pay rise

The much-maligned chair of the investment trust formerly run by Neil Woodford received a 15 per cent pay rise following a year when the fund halved in value, losing investors hundreds of millions of pounds.

Susan Searle, whose pay rose to £46,000 last year from £40,000 in 2018, said that she was “proud” of the work that had been done during an “exceptionally challenging” year for the trust.

Ms Searle was criticised for her personal links to several of the companies the trust invested in under Mr Woodford’s control and for failing to hold the one-time star manager to account during its years of woeful performance.

Mr Woodford resigned as manager of the trust when he sensationally closed his business in October and the trust transferred to Schroders in December.

The board of the trust, now known as Schroder UK Public Private, held 16 additional meetings as the crisis deepened at Mr Woodford’s investment company, which required Ms Searle to work an average of three additional days a week and disrupted most weekends over a six-month period. The board of the trust agreed to pay Ms Searle an additional fee for the increase in her workload but she declined.

Ms Searle will serve another year as chair subject to a vote by shareholders at the annual meeting, which will be held on June 5 at Schroders’ London office.

Pay for Scott Brown, an independent non-executive director who sits on the trust’s audit, risk and valuation, and management engagement committees, rose 11 per cent to £30,000. Total remuneration paid to the trust’s board rose 16 per cent last year to £210,000 after four members left and three directors were appointed.

The separation was completed this week between Schroder UK Public Private and Mr Woodford’s defunct flagship Woodford Equity Income fund, which is in the process of being wound up.

Link Fund Solutions, the authorised corporate director for the Woodford Equity Income fund, announced it had completed the sale of its entire holding in the Schroder UK Public Private trust.

To avoid breaching liquidity limits, Mr Woodford transferred the holdings of five unlisted stocks from Equity Income into Patient Capital in a complex shares-for-assets swap worth £73m in March 2019.

The trust’s share price has since dropped 70 per cent, suggesting the value realised by Link of the holding in UK Public Private had shrunk to about £22m.

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