THE Hongkong Unit Trust Association recently changed its name to the Hongkong Investment Fund Association after widening its membership in a bid to gain greater influence by becoming bigger. The group of managers representing the mutual and unit trust industry has decided to take in retirement scheme industry managers and those organisations behind closed-end funds. Hongkong's fund industry, with US$100 billion of overseas money under management here and $10 billion in domestic retirement funds, is in many ways an unsung industry in Hongkong. Just about every major international fund management group in the world is represented in Hongkong today. The major exceptions are in the United States, but they are fast joining the rest. Yet as an industry it has been left fairly unregulated until very recently. Legislation is now in place to govern domestic retirement schemes, ensuring that the rights of the estimated 500,000 employee beneficiaries in the territory are protected. Secondary legislation is being brought in to make it compulsory for all corporate entities to have some kind of retirement benefit scheme operating for employees. This is expected to operate in the private sector, but the Legislative Council recently sent a message to the Government that it wanted to see a public sector, Singapore-style central provident fund put in place instead. Hongkong is undoubtedly the international centre for fund management in Asia. As an industry it wants to be taken seriously and it wants a voice at the table that is considering legislative changes to the way the industry is to be governed. Many of the fund industry's activities are covered under aspects of investor protection and Securities and Futures Commission watchdog powers, but there is no body specifically responsible for the sector. Quite a number of its activities are covered under other jurisdictions around the world along with the fiduciary responsibilities implied by the appointment of trustees to investment arrangements that has become the industry norm. There are a number of individuals who believe the industry is fine as it is, and that the current fabric of investor protection imposed through a combination overlapping industry and statutory safeguards is sufficient. Yet there are a fair number of issues that the industry needs to address. They include enhanced codes of conduct, the abolition of commission rebating and the apparently deep-rooted cartel self-interest that seems to exist in the industry here. The formation of a self-regulatory body, with representatives from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds, will not have the same commercial interests at heart when looking at investor protection issues. For instance, the fund industry is all in favour of compulsory retirement legislation in Hongkong, as it would bring huge funds under management. Yet it is instinctively opposed to the establishment of employee consultative committees to monitor and review the fund-management and employee-benefit arrangements behind a given scheme. A formally established self-regulator might act more like a public body instead of a private club.