The mistakes made in publicising the China Life Insurance share allocations for retail investors amounted to a hiccup in what was generally a successful initial public offering. Thousands who were listed as having 3,000 shares had in fact been given a third less, but the first day of share trading seemed to go smoothly for most investors. Nonetheless, the errors are sure to be a cause for concern to the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC). That is because they hint at the far bigger issue of adequate oversight of listing sponsors. The problem with China Life Insurance's announcement was traced to errors made by the typesetter which processed the film handed to newspapers for publication. Citigroup's Francis Leung Pak-to, one of the bankers leading the US$3 billion IPO, said human error would remain a potential pitfall in the process until it was made more electronic. Yet the incident raises a number of issues. It is the sponsors' duty to check all information about an IPO before it is released to the investing public. Was there a lapse somewhere by the army of professionals involved in this listing? Further, it seems the insurer's bankers knew of the problem at 10am Wednesday but did not make a public statement until 2am yesterday, just hours before trading was to begin. It seems the discrepancies were spotted on Wednesday afternoon by some Hong Kong brokers who got the accurate allotment information from the exchange and then complained to the SFC. Investors, unless they had brokers who told them about it, were still in the dark until yesterday as to how many shares they had received. Should the sponsors have made some announcement even before complaints were made? From due diligence on a company's financial statements to the fair and efficient distribution of shares, IPO sponsors are responsible for all kinds of details. Attention to the smallest of these details would give investors confidence that the larger questions are also being addressed. The sponsors' large fees reflect the value and seriousness of their work, as well as the level of professionalism expected of them. There was a commendable democratic impulse running through the China Life Insurance IPO. Millions of application forms were printed for retail investors and an allocation was made to everyone who requested shares. The listing was many times oversubscribed, imposing a very heavy workload on those responsible for processing the applications. But that is no excuse for the glitches. The SFC, with its statutory responsibility for licensing IPO sponsors, will likely see the missteps as a sign that regulation might need to be tightened. These sponsors, hired to vet share offers and to see that they go smoothly, may soon be held to greater account, and rightly so.