The Commissione di Vigilanza, Italy's pensions regulator, is currently processing 70 applications to set up the country's first open pension funds.

All of the expected market players including Generali, Prime and Deutschebank have applied.

As yet only three closed fund (company or foundation funds) applications have been presented but more are expected to follow.

However, Stefano Grassi, business manager for pension funds at Prime Investment Management says: In the next few months, I think that there will be a great increase in the number. I estimate that 150 will present de-mands between now and year-end."

Most open funds will be defined contribution although five or six defined benefit funds, which are only applicable to the self-employed, have applied.

"In December or January the open funds should begin to collect clients," says Grassi.

Hugh Twiss, in charge of investment strategy at Sim CoGeF, a joint venture between Generali, BCI and Flemings adds: "Activity is picking up sharply. We have been ahead of the game but it is clear our competitors are beginning to take this more seriously."

The last piece of the regulatory jigsaw fell into place in August when the final Ministry of Labour decrees came into force."