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The name aim

On October 1 the Association of Investment Trust Companies is becoming the Association of Investment Companies.

Group director general Daniel Godfrey says the move reflects the direction and focus of the group.

The investment trust sector has been through some difficult times over recent years but Godfrey is upbeat.

He says: “We have faced some big challenges with the threat of regulation and so on in regard to listing rules. We would have liked to have had a period of doing the things proactively rather than fighting fires.”

But why the name change now? Investment trusts are UK-based companies listed on the London Stock Exchange, that have investment trust status under section 842 of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act.

But now there are all sorts of entities occupying the same investment company space.

Godfrey explains: “There are not just section 842 traditional investment trusts any more. There are some 100 VCTs, probably 100 offshore companies – firms domiciled in the Channel Islands but listed on the London Stock Exchange and they are not investment trusts.

“We are also seeing investment companies coming to the market listing on Aim, which are not investment trusts.”

The Aic, as well as its traditional investment trust membership, has around 30 offshore companies, 70 VCTs and three Aim trusts on its books.

Godfrey says: “We are an organisation representing investment companies. It is just that 10 years ago around 95 to 99 per cent were traditional investment trusts.

“From a consumer’s perspective, they are not bothered if they are a traditional investment trust or Guernsey-domiciled London listed investment company.

“Consumers probably think of them all as investment trusts, just like most think that all open-ended funds are unit trusts.

He points out that the description of what the association does is of particular importance.

Godfrey says: “It makes sense for us to change our name to reflect what we do. Although investment trusts are our traditional market, it is not what the rest of the world sees as investment companies.

“Although venture capital trusts could have been members, we have not gone out of our way to recruit them but now we have recognised that the market has matured and there is probably more in it for both of us.

“There are a lot of issues they have in common with our members, such as corporate governance, the listing rules, so we can work stronger together.”

Godfrey is confident that sophisticated private investors and their advisers will be keen to look at their new offshore company mem-bership, noting that many private client stock brokers are using such offshore-domiciled but London-listed investment companies.

But when it comes to real estate investment trusts, Godfrey is unmoved. He says: “We have given up with UK Reits, we might be wrong and have lots of egg on our face but we think that nothing is going to happen. We cannot see any reason why a company would launch a UK Reit when it could launch as a Guernsey property company.

“I can see why the existing property company might convert to Reit status but we cannot see any reason for a new fund to raise cash and launch as a UK Reit.

“There might be existing property funds that convert to Reit status but we are not sure why they would do that. We just do not see the prospect of real new money coming in.”

But Godfrey believes that the arrival of wrap will open up real opportunities for all investment companies.

He says: “True wrap products will put investment trusts and other investment companies on a level playing field. The advent of true wrap will remove some of the last barriers as wrap re-engineers the commission structure.”

Reactions to the name change so far have been positive although Godfrey says a number of questions were raised such as, would the wider focus on offshore vehicles take away from the onshore business? Godfrey is adamant that this will not happen.

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