AT TWO per cent, the penetration level of unit trusts among the territory's population is one of the most often-cited statistics by managers in the industry. The figure at last may be set to change as marketing strategies for unit trusts begin to shift in their favour. Fund managers are pushing hard. Fidelity recently became the first fund manager to banner its name across a forest-green tram. Last week's announcement by the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) lifting restrictions on radio and television advertising means fund managers will continue to become more visible. Several weeks before the SFC announcement, the Hongkong Investment Association announced that it was conducting a study to find out why unit trusts were not selling better. The association said it planned to use the results of the survey to ultimately improve the popularity of the unit trust. But perhaps the greatest push is coming not from fund managers but from the sector which in the past has been the less vociferous of the two: retail banks. The current trend among retail banks is to move away from selling their own unit trusts and incorporate those offered by other fund houses. At the same time, some banks are beginning to offer a risk assessment service as well. ''I'm seeing this trend in some of the banks,'' confirmed Mr Andrew Lo of the Hongkong Investment Association. Claiming to be the first bank to have started working with the fund houses, Mr Joseph Lam, vice-president at Chase Manhattan Bank, said: ''In the last year it has grown most rapidly, with Hang Seng and Citibank, too, beginning to work with fund houses. ''The Chinese banks are beginning to think about it as well.'' Fuelling the trend is the perceived increased demand from clients. ''I think this new trend came into being because of the customer's needs. In the past five years the affluent market has gone up. Customers are relying more on banks for security and stability,'' said Mr Lam. ''It's also convenient. With a bank, the client has only to go to one officer rather than having to deal with an officer from each fund house.'' Mr Tim Kelley, senior vice-president and manager for global consumer banking at Citibank, agreed. ''Our rationale in launching the service was based on research that customers wanted advice on alternative investment vehicles. They didn't know where to go or had too much to go through,'' he said. The services offered by the three banks vary. Hang Seng Bank's services are geared more towards the product, while Citibank and Chase focus more on the service. At Citibank, for example, the service works a bit like a dating scheme. The investor answers a series of questions to determine tolerance of risk and investment objectives. The resulting investment profile is fed into a computer which allocates assets according to the investor's objectives. The subsequent output is a recommendation broken down into cash, bond, currency, or equity-based investments and divided by region. Citibank matches these investment allocations against a list of Hongkong-registered and Citibank-recommended unit trusts, of which there are 168. The client then chooses which unit trusts he or she would like to invest in. At Chase Manhattan, trusts, shares, currencies, and bonds are among the vehicles offered for investment. The fund houses from which it offers products are limited to Jardine Fleming, Fidelity, Peregrine, and First Investment. Both banks stress the importance of assessing the client's needs, objectives, and tolerance of risk. Hang Seng Bank is not as service orientated. It breaks down Wardley, Jardine Fleming and Schroders Asia unit trusts into three categories of risks. Investors decide which unit trust they want to invest in. Another distinction is that both Citibank and Chase provide the client with continued services once an investment has been made. These include monthly statements, summary statements every six months, and information on the unit trusts. Citibank charges $600 per annum for the service; Chase provides it for free. No other fee is levied, except those also charged by the unit trusts, such as upfront and transfer fees. These are no higher than those fees published by the unit trusts. At Citibank, the minimum investment is $80,000 while at Chase it is set between $7,000 and $8,000.