The total investment quota allowed under China's Qualified Domestic Institutional Investor (QDII) scheme was US$42.2 billion at the end of September, Beijing Business Today reported. Li Dongrong, vice director of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), released the figure at a seminar on China's overseas investment program in Shanghai. The scheme allows financial institutions to raise cash in yuan or foreign currencies and invest them abroad in a broad range of assets, including stocks and other securities, offering new investment channels for mainland residents, who are not allowed to directly invest in overseas markets. The scheme was initially restricted to banks, but was extended to include fund management firms and insurers from June when it emerged that banks had used only 26% of a combined QDII quota of RMB13 billion approved since the previous July. However, banks were limited to low-return fixed-income products, so the expectation of an appreciating yuan and the red-hot mainland stock market made them unpopular. To date, five fund management firms and 14 insurance companies have joined 21 commercial banks as holders of foreign investment quotas, Li said. However, qualified investors had made just US$10.86 billion in overseas purchases by the end of the third quarter.