Morningstar is moving into the B2B (business-to-business) arena with a new portal site aimed at financial advisors. MorningstarAdvisor.com is set to launch by the end of the second quarter and will incorporate three main areas to address the needs of professional advisors, says Chris Boruff, vice president of advisor products at Morningstar. The site will aggregate information and allow advisors to interact among themselves and with institutions such as fund companies.
MorningstarAdvisor.com will be divided into three main areas currently labeled as community, marketplace and tools. The community will consist primarily of editorial content, such as articles and information on investment research issues, industry trends and practice management ideas.
"There's also ways for advisors to interact with each other to swap ideas and insights and best practices and things like that through bulletin boards and chat rooms, and they can post messages or requests to the site," says Boruff. He adds that the community services will be free to registered professional advisors.
A primary function of the marketplace section will be a "virtual trade show," where the institutions can reach advisors and post information by purchasing and maintaining "virtual booths" in the marketplace area of the site. Boruff emphasizes that the area will not be limited to marketing information to be posted by the firms, but will include "valuable information such as manager strategies or service policies." This information will be derived from a standard set of questions that institutions, such as fund companies and insurance companies, must answer and post in order to participate.
"We wanted to ensure that they're not just putting up marketing information that advisors can get anywhere and that they're providing information we know is of value and will allow an advisor to compare, apples to apples, across various fund or investment companies," says Boruff. He adds that the marketplace area will be rounded out with live chats and presentations by institutions to the advisor members.
The third section of MorningstarAdvisor.com will be dedicated to tools that are useful to professional advisors such as Quick Take reports for current, detailed information on mutual funds, stocks and annuities. Users can also access an online version of Morningstar Mutual Funds, as well as virtual education courses on topics such as investing, practice management, productivity, office tools and personnel management. These will be available based on subscription rates, charged depending on the products and services used.
"Through the research we've done and the ongoing discussions with advisors, we know they are heavily using the Internet," says Boruff. "But part of the issue with the Web is that there's so much information out there and it's hard to know what's going to be useful and what's not. Advisors look to Morningstar as somebody who can help them cut through the junk to get the useful things and provide them with a single location or a linkage to that information."
In the future, Boruff says the site will be expanded to include other third-party information such as 401k information and assistance and stock picking information as well as additional Morningstar products and services.