Investors are not adequately protected against salesmen who sell unit-linked insurance products, according to fund managers. Insurance brokers selling unit-linked products should be obliged to have the same qualifications and face the same regulatory requirements as financial advisers, fund managers say. Under existing rules, insurance brokers are regarded as 'salespeople' and operate under less stringent regulatory requirements than fund managers who are classified as 'financial advisers'. But fund managers say the sale of unit-linked products comprises an element of financial advisory work. Policy holders who purchase unit-linked insurance products can choose from among a selection of investment funds. Traditional insurance products are invested by insurance companies and policyholders are not consulted on how their premium is invested. The popularity of unit-linked products - which have only been offered by local insurance companies for about a year - means insurance agents have become a major force in the sale of fund products. A survey by the Investment Funds Association, released last August, revealed 45 per cent of local fund investors had bought funds through unit-linked insurance policies. The rest got them through traditional fund managers. While funds sold via unit-linked insurance schemes must be authorised by the Securities and Futures Commission, the insurance agents who sell them are not regulated by the SFC. Stewart Aldcroft, managing director of South African fund house Investec Asset Management, said it was unfair that insurance agents were regulated differently from salespeople in fund management companies. Mr Aldcroft said, as an example, the SFC banned fund managers from 'cold calling', where salespeople contact unknown people to sell fund products. However, insurance agents are not covered by the SFC rule and are free to sell insurance-linked products by that method. Also, fund managers are banned by the SFC from issuing fund performance projections while insurance agents can include performance forecasts in their marketing. The complaints come as an increasing number of insurance companies offer investment-linked insurance products. A SFC spokesman defended the regulatory situation saying investment-linked insurance products were policies, not securities, and their sellers should be subject to regulation by the Insurance Authority, not the SFC. Insurance commissioner Benjamin Tang Kwok-bun said new requirements would be introduced by the end of this year to ensure only insurance agents who passed an examination could sell unit-linked insurance products.