Janus International, the global division of the $133 billion, Denver, Colorado-based Janus Capital Group, has signed agreements with 30 domestic Taiwanese banks to sell 10 United States-centric mutual funds.

Janus launched its Taiwan presence in September, 2001 via Citibank. Because of the high level of red tape in getting funds approved and launched in Taiwan, and lacking a securities investment consulting enterprise (Sice) licence, Citibank offered to register Janus' funds under Citi's Sice licence in return for exclusive rights to market Janus funds for one year.

When that expired in late 2002, Janus found local, independent partners to establish a Sice under the Janus name, helping the firm avoid spending on local brick and mortar, and began talks with local banks. Now it has 30 on board, including majors such as China Trust and Bank of Taipei, representing over 2,000 branches.

Howcy Yeung, Janus' sales director for Asia and general manager for Taiwan, says the firm has amassed up to $800 million in retail sales since first opening shop in Taiwan. "Taiwan retail investors like mutual funds, and they like investing offshore," Yeung says. She believes the demand among local banks for Janus' products (along with those from rivals such as Fidelity Investments, Franklin Templeton, Invesco, New-Alliance and Schroders) will translate into even greater sales this year.

Cerulli Associates in London has estimated that by end of 2002, the cross-border segment of the Taiwan market was $15 billion, set to rise to $46 billion by 2007.

Janus offers a range of US investment products but the vast majority of Taiwan assets have gone to fixed income - no surprise, given that domestic fund houses are mostly bond houses.

"Investors have been very slow to take up other asset classes," Yeung says. "But although they remain bond-focused, they have increased their risk. Initially we saw investments in government treasuries, but now customers are investing in high yield funds and other types of bond indices, seeking higher yield."

Janus continues to talk with other international banks about distributing in Taiwan as well, such as Standard Chartered Bank.