Firms Get Approval to Sell Mutual Funds


Chinese securities regulators have decided to allow four investment consultancies to sell mutual-fund shares, a step that analysts say will further invigorate China's mutual fund industry.

The companies, Noah Private Wealth Management, Shenzhen Zhonglu Wealth Ltd, Howbuy Wealth Management Center and East Money Information Co Ltd, said on Thursday that they have received licenses from the China Securities Regulatory Commission to sell the shares.

The commission's decision falls in line with rules it had adopted last year to allow more institutions to distribute mutual fund shares. The rules say institutions can apply for the licenses if they have more than 20 million yuan ($3 million) in registered capital and employ 10 certified mutual fund professionals.

Before the change, commercial banks and securities companies were the only entities allowed to distribute fund shares; mutual funds could also directly sell their shares.

Of the mutual fund shares sold last year, 60 percent went through banks and 31 percent through direct sales, according to the Securities Association of China. In developed economies, such as the United States, more than half of all mutual-fund shares sold went through consulting companies.

In China, mutual funds came to contain about 2.19 trillion yuan ($347.7 billion) in 2011.

Fifty-nine commercial banks and 94 securities companies are now allowed to sell mutual-fund shares, according to data from the regulatory commission.

Experts say allowing consulting companies to apply for licenses will increase competition in the mutual-fund industry and help investors obtain better professional services and pay lower commission fees. That, in turn, will encourage more people to invest in mutual funds.

Unlike commercial banks and securities companies, consulting companies are independent from mutual funds and are thus better able to provide investors with unbiased advice, said Chen Long, an analyst with Shenzhen Zhonglu Wealth Ltd. Commercial banks and securities companies typically provide custody, research and trading services to mutual funds.

"Investors will be the biggest beneficiaries because competition from independent institutions will force commercial banks to improve their services and lower their commissions," Yang Wenbin, chairman of Howbuy Wealth Management, said in a statement.

Long said consulting firms will "bring more checks and balances to the mutual-fund industry, helping to maximize investor interests and promote the development of the industry".

Howbuy has finished testing a website where mutual-fund shares will be traded. Trading on it is to start in the near future.

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