Fight to exempt unit trusts from `kitemark' plan

THE ASSOCIATION of Unit Trusts and Investment Funds is fighting to exempt unit trusts from a new "kitemark" for insurance companies, which is aimed at restoring public confidence in the industry.

Philip Warland, AUTIF director-general, said unit trusts should receive a "free pass" rather than face extra requirements from a new scheme run by the Association of British Insurers (ABI). Unlike the pensions and insurance products tainted by mis-selling scandals, the unit trust industry had no need to boost its public image, he said.

Management of unit and investment trusts, the trustees and the fund itself all have to be authorised, and marketing is also heavily regulated, he pointed out. "There isn't a lot else you can accredit. A lot of life assurers simply don't understand the degree of regulation and authorisation covering an investment fund."

AUTIF rejected the idea of a quality mark when approached by the ABI, but the association pressed ahead with its plan to accredit whole brands, rather than individual products.

An independent accreditation board will decide whether or not to award firms with a quality mark after judging on standards of service, plain English and the suitability of products. Mr Warland said he would prefer it if the standards were set by the independent board, not as announced yesterday, by insurance industry chiefs at the ABI.

The ABI is promising that the scheme will help raise the quality of financial products long before it is formally launched in 2001. Director-general Mary Francis said: "We believe most companies will be determined to get this quality mark."