A publicly-traded Christian Internet company is getting into the mutual fund business.
Didax, which operates Crosswalk.com - an interactive Christian website - and trades on the Nasdaq stock market, has plans to start a mutual fund family next year. The funds will target Christians and conservatives by making socially-conservative investments.
The Crosswalk name mirrors the site in that it is designed to provide people a safe haven on the Web. A lot of the materials on the Web, such as pornography, offends Christian values and appears unsolicited in e-mail or otherwise confronts browsers to whom it is unwelcome.To counteract this, the Crosswalk site offers users a free filter with which to block explicit material.
The site also has a feature called "The Investigator" which screens mutual funds for companies that make their money from activities ranging from pornography and abortion to alcohol and gambling. The new mutual funds will similarly screen for such products, company officials said.
Crosswalk.com also provides access to family-oriented movie reviews, chat rooms, discussion groups, news and e-mail, plus areas within the site where information on money management, music and spiritual life can be found.
Didax will first create private accounts based on this investment model to be managed by Quantum American, a New Orleans money manager, and Quantum/Gabelli, an advisory partnership between Quantum American and Mario Gabelli of the Gabelli Funds in Rye, N.Y. Quantum American will manage equities and Quantum/Gabelli will manage cash and fixed income for the private accounts, Didax officials say. The same will be true for the mutual funds, although Didax officials plan to bring in special subadvisers in order to offer a range of funds covering several asset classes. Didax officials declined to elaborate.
"We're working very hard to have advisers who are at the top of their game in their asset class," said Scott Fehrenbacher, who heads the money area of the Crosswalk.com site and is involved in the development of the new financial products.
The new funds, which will be marketed under the Crosswalk.com name, will immediately enjoy the advantage of being identified with the increasingly popular website. The site has 125,000 registered members and web users look at 1.2 million pages per month.
The site was originally created in 1996 as the Christian Community Network. In September, it was renamed Crosswalk.com. In 1997, it was named website of the year by Best of the Christian Web, a website that rates Christian websites. The site is also backed by organizations such as the Promise Keepers, the Family Research Council, Young Life and the Presbyterian Church in America.
The mutual funds will be sold through several channels, including brokers and fee-based advisers, Didax officials say. They will also be sold directly through the website, using an online brokerage that company officials declined to name. Crosswalk.com is working with a "major national firm" to provide its members with online trading services in the near future, according to information on the website.
Didax officials say that the private accounts, which will be available this month, will be aimed mostly at non-profit groups like religious schools and Christian foundations seeking a vehicle for investing in the market while upholding their values.
The mutual funds, which should be available by the first half of next year, will be retail-oriented and geared toward Christians who are seeking a way to apply their values in their investing.
"This is an important validation of the role personal values and personal choice have in the financial services area," William Parker, president and ceo of Didax said in a statement.
Didax officials know that their financial products will not be attractive to all investors, but they believe they are breaking new ground in affinity marketing in which a specific group such as the Christian community is targeted.
While the mutual funds are going to be marketed extensively outside the website, Crosswalk.com will also support the funds by offering portfolio manager commentary and fund performance information, Fenrenbacker says.