NISA, short for Nippon Individual Savings Account, in which individual investors will be eligible for tax exemptions of up to five years on their financial gains, has begun this month. Banks and securities houses are rushing to promote sales campaigns to encourage individual investors to open NISA investment accounts. In contrast to the excitement in the financial industry, however, the scheme is struggling to bring in new clients.

Under NISA, capital gains from investment of up to ¥1 million a year on stocks and investment trusts are tax free. To receive the tax break, an investor needs to open a separate NISA account. According to the National Tax Agency's statistics, about 3.6 million applications for NISA investment were filed on the first day alone last October.

But most of the applications were filed by existing investors. An example is Daiwa Securities Group Inc., which has had more than 400,000 applications. At the company's management strategy conference held in mid-November, President Takashi Hibino said most of the applications were from existing customers. At Nomura Securities Co., which attracted 1.06 million applications as of Nov. 30, many of them were from existing clients as well.