A new impetus
It is to some extent the icing on the cake. The advent of the Ucits IV Directive puts the finishing touches to the far-reaching changes which the UCITS market has undergone. After much intense haggling, such as that over the asset management company passport, its new provisions are finally to be implemented by July this year at the latest. This new directive succeeds Ucits III which by enlarging the range of eligible financial instruments to include derivative products in particular, took fund management into a new era, that of hedging techniques, even alternative strategies. Ucits IV is more a question of adjusting legislation to a revolution which has already begun. Its humble vocation is to enhance the fluidity of the European market in UCITS, via cross-border fund mergers, the use of master-feeder fund structures, better investor information thanks to the KIID (key information investors document), the asset management company passport and, above all, more efficient authorisation procedures between regulatory authorities.
The commercial practices of the fund management industry have already changed considerably. The number of fund management companies with an international dimension has rocketed. According to the last "Global fund distribution" of PwC (source Lipper), almost a hundred of them distribute their funds in more than ten countries, compared with fifty at the end of 2005 and as few as fifteen at the end of 2001. Similarly, more than 8,000 funds are considered as cross-border funds (distributed in at least three countries), compared with just over 5,000 at the end of 2005. Neither the recent mergers between leading fund management companies (BlackRock - BGI, Crédit Agricole AM - Société Générale AM, BNP Paribas AM - Fortis I, etc.), nor planned fund rationalisation policies in a context of a slowdown in the market, have got the better of this irrepressible need to multiply the products offered and the markets to be conquered.
However, asset management companies must not give in to scepticism, faced with these new rules which, supported by regulators that are committed to playing the game, will undeniably give a new impetus to the European market.