While Morningstar has long been known as a leading provider of independent investment research, the company also produces a number of software applications for advisors. Perhaps the two most popular are Morningstar Office Morningstars practice and portfolio management system for independent RIAs and Morningstar Advisor Workstation, geared primarily to the enterprise market.
Now Morningstar has added one more offering to its product line: a Morningstar for Advisors iPad app that is a mobile companion for Morningstar Office and Morningstar Advisor Workstation.
Offices feature set includes portfolio management and performance reporting, investment planning, investment research and a client portal; Morningstar also offers advisors a number of value-added services outsourced portfolio accounting management and reconciliation as well as a data aggregation service for an additional fee. Office integrates with a number of third-party providers and custodians, with many more integrations expected later this year.
Advisor Workstation, meanwhile, has the ability to provide investment data and various other tools a client and portfolio module, a planning module, a hypothetical module, a defined contribution module, etc. Its available in a number of configurations, so enterprises generally purchase one or more modules, then customize them and make the package available to their advisors. As is true with Morningstar Office, Workstation is capable of integration with other leading third-party applications.
The new app is free to subscribers to either of Morningstars advisor products; advisors can download it by visiting the App Store.
I recently tried out the app on my iPad, and I really liked it. While it does not provide all of the functionality of Morningstar Office and Morningstar Advisor Workstation, it provides some key elements.
And I expect Morningstar to expand its capabilities in the future; my conversations with technologists at Morningstar suggest that the platform architecture is built with expansion in mind.
4 KEY ELEMENTS
Currently, when you log in for the first time, the home screen contains four elements: the search box, which allows you to search for clients, prospects and securities; a link to the markets area, which contains the latest market news, market data from across the globe; market commentary from Morningstar analysts; and Morningstar videos.
A Morningstar style-box heat map shows how each box (or style) is faring currently in the market.
The home page makes good use of the screen space. For example, all you see at first is one line about each major market index but clicking on an index displays more information (such as gainers, losers, active, charts, return over various time periods). The Clients and Portfolio section offers access to summary reports, holding reports, and Portfolio X-Rays.
The well-designed client summary page should be familiar to many Morningstar subscribers. At the top of the page, you can see asset allocation, return and risk/reward charts for a households consolidated portfolios.
A list at the bottom of the page identifies the individual portfolios that make up the aggregated portfolio with return numbers, inception date, three-year standard deviation, and starting and ending market value for each along with any benchmarks.
You can sort the list by any of the columns, or toggle between this list and a list of reports that you have previously prepared for the client. Click on one of them, and it is downloaded from a cloud-based document vault to your iPad for viewing.
You can also drill down to see a summary of any individual portfolio; a portfolio summary page contains download links for any reports associated with that portfolio.
To view the holdings associated with the portfolio, just swipe sideways (right to left) with your finger. The default column headings in the holdings view include market value, portfolio weighting, shares held, current price, price change (in dollars) and price change (in percent). As on other pages, the list can be sorted by any column.
One difference between this page and the aggregated household view is that from here you can swipe the column data to see additional columns of data. Another swipe takes you to the Portfolio X-Ray report, which covers things like asset allocation, stock style, stock statistics, stock regions, fees and expenses, stock sectors and more.
A navigation bar hides at left, but you can call it up at any point. A few icons at the bottom of the page, including a home button and a search button, aid navigation as well.
The support and feedback section looks minimal. When I clicked on the link, however, an email to Morningstar popped up, allowing me to easily communicate with the support team.
I really like what I see so far from the Morningstar app. It is well designed, intuitive and a pleasure to use. If you are familiar with the iPad and you are familiar with Office or Workstation, you should be up and running in no time, and youll likely love the experience.
If there is any downside, it is that the app will have you wishing for more. Id like to be able to customize my landing page, so that I could go immediately to the Markets summary, or to an individual portfolio Im watching or whatever. Currently, if you log on to the Clients and Portfolio section, the app seems to remember where in that section you were but Id like to see the functionality extended so that, for example, I can skip the home page when I log in.
It does not appear that you can customize the columns yet on the household view pages. Id like to see that added. And although you can display additional columns at the individual portfolio level, it is still only a small subset of the data Morningstar offers on the full version. Hopefully the data set will be expanded.
You cant get holdings or Portfolio X-Rays on an aggregated basis yet, either.
There are no alert capabilities in the iPad app. Id like to either see alerts in the app, or preferably in the iPads notification area; Id also like to see Morningstar Office extend its overall alerts capabilities, although I expect that to happen soon.
There are no rebalancing capabilities here at the moment; it would eventually be nice to view out-of-balance portfolios, and rebalance them with a click. And there is no trading functionality here yet either.
That said, I view most of these shortcomings as wish list items. Morningstar has made it very clear that this is a 1.0 version, and that additional enhancements are on the way. Im just trying to provide some unsolicited suggestions for future enhancements.
If you are an existing Office or Workstation subscriber, this is a very nice enhancement that is being delivered at no extra charge. It is a great addition to any advisors toolkit, and it is certain to be enhanced soon.
The world is changing and advisors need to respond, says Tricia Rothschild, head of global advisor solutions at Morningstar.
Rothschild adds: Advisors who can connect with the next generation of tech-savvy clients and
leverage new technologies to help streamline their businesses and increase productivity are going to have a significant advantage.
The iPad app is one tool that Morningstar believes will help advisors compete effectively in the future. I would agree.
Joel Bruckenstein, a Financial Planning columnist, is co-creator of the Technology Tools for Today conference series and technology guides for advisors, including Technology Tools for Todays High-Margin Practice. Visit
JoelBruckenstein.com for more information. Follow him on Twitter at @FinTechie.
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