Merrill Lynch will begin providing investors with proprietary research on outside mutual funds.
The research data will be similar in format to Lipper Analytical Services and Morningstar, according to Susan Thomson, a Merrill spokesperson. She says the standard information on net asset value and historical performance information will be provided to investors. While the final products format has not been designed, she says the mutual fund data will be much like the data provided on closed-end funds, which is already offered to clients.
The mutual fund research will be sent with customer statements, and is meant to give clients more information about their investments, Thomson adds.
The data will not include any information on Merrill Lynch proprietary funds or Merrill Lynch Asset Management (MLAM) services.
John Rekenthaler, research director at Morningstar in Chicago, says there are some regional firms tapping into the mutual fund research area, but Merrill will be the first Street firm to provide anything comprehensive on open-end mutual funds.
It makes sense, says Rekenthaler. They want to brand their research. This gives them a reason to say, Thats why you should come to Merrill Lynch over PaineWebber.
While there is potential for conflict, its not a big problem, Rekenthaler adds. These guys already recommend stocks--and there is some question of conflict there between investment banking and research--so its an issue theyve dealt with successfully in the past.
A.G. Edwards and Raymond James already offer open-end mutual fund research to their clients, and Rekenthaler expects regionals and the other big Wall Street firms to follow suit.
The Merrill service will be available by year-end, Thomson says.