Notwithstanding that Italian investors still represent an interesting market for foreign UCITS, the Italian asset management industry has been registering poor results for many years.

The Italian asset management crisis has for some time been closely monitored by the Italian government and the supervisory authorities, which have investigated the possible structural causes, identifying, amongst other things, a low level of strategic independence of asset management companies within banking groups and the consolidation of vertical production and distribution integration models, as well as some tax driven inefficiencies.

In this scenario, a joint working group consisting of representatives from Consob, Bank of Italy and some of the main asset management-related industry associations, recently published a position paper containing their final report on “Central securities depositary for the dematerialisation of units of open-end funds” to give a firm response to the need for greater asset management efficiency and competitiveness of the Italian investment funds sector.

The position paper aims at reviving the mutual funds business by overcoming the fragmentation that has always characterised the Italian industry and by promoting the creation of a more competitive system based on uniform standards capable of providing adequate support to market operators in the management of orders concerning units of open-end funds.

In detail, the working group agreed on the need to adopt procedural standardisation that will allow to handle the execution of processes with a high degree of certainty, uniformity, and in a timely fashion, and, in the future, on the adoption of an infrastructure for the system, accompanied by central securities depositary for the dematerialisation of units of open-end funds, which will result in greater efficiency for the industry. These conclusions are supported by evidence of the results of cost-benefit analysis performed by the working group with regard to the introduction of new models by studying different possible operating scenarios.

The position paper outlines future actions to be taken to achieve a logical and gradual transition to more efficient organisational formats. By the end of June 2010 a plan of action for a standardised flow of information between the operators concerned will have to be defined and will have to be implemented by the end of December 2011, thus leading to the portability of fund units, and to greater competition amongst intermediaries, resulting, in turn, in a wider range of products and in a diversification of distribution channels.

The paper is only available in its Italian version on the web sites of the two authorities: www.consob.it and www.bancaditalia.it