The first Italian open end pension funds have not appeared on the market yet. They still lack the approval of Consob (Commissione nazionale per le societe la Borsa), the financial market regulator, or from Covip (Commissione di vigilanza sui fondi pensione), the Italian commission for pension funds.

Consob has to approve the Prospetto informativo", the document explaining a fund's conditions to perspective clients; while Covip has to register each fund in the national "Albo" (Register).

So far only two, Previd System and Carime Previdenza, both fropm the Fondigest, Cariplo stable, out of 60 open end pension funds applications have obtainedConsob approval. But they still await the Covip registration.

By the same token, three other open end pension funds, Previras of Ras, Paschi Previdenza of Montepaschi and Al meglio of Alleanza, have got Covip registration, but not for their prospectus.

Traditionally, it takes three to six or more months to get Consob approval for a unit trust managed by a company already authorised, which is why in an effort to cut red tape, many Italian money managers are launching new products from Luxembourg or Dublin. Some are even moving their headquarters there.

But being a completely new product, a pension fund's prospectus could take even more time. Its structure is complex and indeed have been already criticised, though but not openly, by fund managers, who say it's too redundant and too "financially oriented". This last remark is made particularly by insurers, who say that Consob Prospectus pays too little attention to the pension aim of the funds.

But the Consob delays are not the only problem. It's still not clear who will be able to sell open end pension funds. In fact their marketing is controlled by Consob, according to the rules of 'sollecitazione del pubblico risparmio' and that is why they need the prospectus approved. But so far only "promotori finanziari" have been authorised to solicit the public and sell financial products with prospectus: they are financial agents who have passed a public exam, obtained a licence, been listed in a public register and been controlled by Consob.

Of course, the insurance companies claim that also their agents and brokers have the know-how to sell pension funds; while the bank employees can already sell everything, provided they do not solicit the public generally.

Meetings between Consob, Isvap, Covip and BancItalia are taking place to agree the new rules for marketing the open end pension funds. Maria Teresa Cometto"