Safety lies in numbers for the small investor tempted by Asia's promise of huge rewards. While the region's emerging markets may offer the siren song of outstanding economic growth and surging stock prices, the lone traveller risks ruin. For investors who want to gain exposure to markets that have consistently been among the fastest growing in the world for the past decade and more, unit trusts provide an ideal investment vehicle. Aside from the great range of funds available - with investors able to pick and choose by country, region, sector, or choose the type and range of investment - equity, bonds, warrants - umbrella funds offer the ability to switch between funds at no extra charge. For the truly cautious, guaranteed funds offer investments underwritten by the manager, ensuring in most cases the investor receives 95 per cent of his money back should a market melt down. The clearest advantage of investing in Asia's emerging markets through unit trusts lies in the pool of professional expertise and in-depth knowledge managers have at their disposal. Looking for value in Asia is nowhere near as simple as in developed European and North American markets, said Stuart Winchester, fund manager at Thornton Management (Asia). Problems with transparency and disclosure hampered the investor's ability to judge the fundamental value of an investment, he said. While the recent stock slide in Thailand may present the opportunity to buy into companies at rock-bottom prices, the lack of transparency may be 'masking the horrors that are still yet to come out', he said. Other problems may involve the transfer of assets profits between companies, often at the expense of the minority shareholders, a particular problem in Hong Kong, where many listed companies are still controlled by family interests. Mr Winchester said that, in Indonesia, for example, nepotism was a problem for investors, distorting the market place. 'No one really likes that but it's something you have to accept,' he said. And if minority shareholders sometimes get a rough deal in Asia, they stand a better chance with the collective power of a trust fund than alone. 'We do exercise our vote as shareholders,' he said, though he added that the fund's positions would not be large enough to alter a company's course. There are also political risks to be taken into account, managers say. In the China market, for example, Jardine Fleming's Greater China Fund is exposed to the knock-on effect of the ticklish political triangle of Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. Last year's Chinese military manoeuvres off the Taiwan coast knocked the Taipei market severely, while Jardine Fleming is gambling on a smooth handover for Hong Kong to boost the territory's market. 'You can't dismiss the political risk factor but if there is a problem it will be short-lived,' Mr Winchester said. That is the view of most fund managers in Hong Kong: there may be periods of volatility but Asian growth is here to stay. Fund managers are tipping that with the high levels of growth will come an ever-increasing demand for capital: demand that cannot be met from the equity markets alone. This will be a factor driving the diversification of unit trusts into other areas, most notably bonds, which Jardine Fleming is tipping as 'the next big investment story'.