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Daunting prospectus for fund firms

In these edgy times, while walking through the City of London, I am always amazed at the stoicism of the British people. Most of us are innately coded to carry on regardless.

Those of us in the area of fund marketing have read a plethora of compliance documents recently. But a small, recently introduced paper may be pause for reflection. It is the long awaited detail of the simplified prospectus which can be found in the FSA’s handbook text in PS05/04.

The issue of this paper in July makes timing tight as the new compliant material should be given to prospective investors from September 30.

In a nutshell, simplified prospectuses are to replace key features documents for all Ucits schemes.

Although there are a number of interpretative issues in the way they are constructed, a vast chunk of the content is prescribed under law. Management groups have to put in new disclosure and calculation information such as performance tables, portfolio turnover rates, total expense ratios and legal structure.

Debate has raged over whether fund supermarkets and their IFA customers have to comply – thankfully, they are largely exempt – and the use of reduction in yield tables and so on.

The simplified prospectus was intended as a largely standard marketing document to be used throughout the EU. However, they will be a far cry from that if the current proposals stand. We know that the UK ver- sion will not look that dissimilar to current key features documents.

The dry Ucits directive-compliant documents, which groups may have to produce, will add yet more consumer-facing material for marketing teams to write, design and print in the most clear and attractive way for the aver- age reader.

Sadly, the documents are likely to simply rest in an FSA filing cabinet for attestation purposes, unless a switched-on client actually asks to see them.

The FSA’s November 2004 consultative paper intended to generate the detailed rules governing these new documents by February 2005, with implementation over six months until September 30.

This all sounds perfectly reasonable, you might say. Maybe a little tight on timing but achieveable.

But after issuing yet more papers throughout the first half of 2005, we entered into another consultation until August 8, presumably with the intention of issuing final rules around mid-August.

Most would argue that these things take time and implementation should be six months on, say, in March 2006.

Therein lies the rub. We are told that the September 30 deadline cannot be moved under European law. Fund management groups will therefore have around six weeks to implement the rules, rather than the six-month minimum we have grown to expect. It is this tight deadline that has caused fund management groups to stop in their tracks.

Many of them have slimmed down internal resources in the never-ending drive to reduce costs and there is very little external help out there.

Fund management groups that have been prepared for the rules are maybe ahead of the game. Others – and there are many – that preferred to wait for the final rules are probably now in big trouble. As completely new documents, s implified prospectuses will need some heavy drafting, IT input, discussion and compliance sign-off.

As with previous documentation required by the FSA, it is the responsibility of the IFA to provide the documents.

If you are a company that prepares key features for your own products which use Ucits funds, you may need to start preparing simplified prospectuses now, if you haven’t already.

It would seem to be almost impossible to hit the September 30 deadline.

Then again, due to the wonderful strength of the British financial services industry, I would like to think we can overcome any hurdle.

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