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Rating:Morningstar Moves on Weak Market Not Rated 3.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Morningstar Moves on Weak Market

Reported by Alfred Wang

With international expansion sewn on Jake Starlight's sleeve, Morningstar launched a beta version of DataLab, a performance-comparison and reporting tool that will be wedged into strategic openings in the Hong Kong and European markets.

"DataLab is a pretty raw tool," said Sylvester Flood, business manager in the international division, explaining the rush to bring the product to market, "but competition is pretty low [internationally]." Flood emphasized the opportunities by specifying that a "skimpy" data tool "Standard & Poor's is overcharging for" is the only competing product in Hong Kong. The product Flood referred to was FundExpert.

However, another S&P product exists, called Workstation, and a typical client might pay approximately 12,000 pounds depending on the number of funds included in the data tool, according to Kevin Thornton, managing director of S&P Fund Services. Calling it a "robust, high-powered tool," Thornton said that almost 60,000 funds are available in the Workstation universe, as well as different screening, sorting, and charting criteria.

The Morningstar product is designed to analyze performance from over 200 data points using historical data to detect trends. "Institutions want everything we have," said Liz Kirscher, president of Morningstar's data unit, in her discussion of possible applications in marketing and research. "Datalab is our vehicle to display all the data we've accumulated."

If and when DataLab is released in the US, the placement effectively moves the product into competition with Wiesenberger's FundEnterprise. "It looks like there may be overlap," said Ramy Shaalan, a Wiesenberger spokesperson, "since our product is designed to help marketing departments achieve superior positioning."

However, Shaalan did draw differences between the two products: "We provide wholesalers with highly analytical reports that help wholesalers sell funds to brokers," said Shaalan, "and we found that fund complexes were not as interested in using FundEnterprise for researching the competitive landscape as providing wholesalers with the tools to create a powerful sales story."

Additionally, S&P's launch yesterday of www.funds-sp.com, a free online database of 40,000 funds, adds a potential stumbling point to Morningstar's strategy. "We are not a newcomer," cautioned S&P's Thornton, "we are IT."

Clients of the Chicago-based advisory firm will customize the data included in the DataLab vehicle, making it possible for clients to include or preclude French fund data, for example. The final release date is three weeks from now. 

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