For years, A.G. Edwards reps groused that the firm’s technology platform stunk—that is, it had a tendency to break down, not provide adequate information and generally lagged years behind other firms’ technology. But the St. Louis-based regional brokerage is beginning to try to fix the problem.
In what is expected to be one of “many” internal workstation upgrades, the firm announced in April that it had signed a deal with famed investment research firm Morningstar to integrate its mutual fund research, data and ratings with Edwards’ existing infrastructure.
“We’d never had a relationship with Morningstar before, but we needed the upgrade and they had what we were looking for,” says Mike Scafati, senior vice president and manager of managed products for A.G. Edwards.
The main appeal of the deal, to AGE, was the ability of Morningstar’s data to blend seamlessly with the firm’s platform, which some reps have described as “rickety.” The new system will be Web-based and offer several different options, from basic profiles to complete portfolio analyses. The new data will be customized for each individual rep and more easily shared with clients. The idea: Give beleaguered reps an easier way to get research and information without AGE having to produce it all itself.
The upgrades are being staggered in and may take seven months to completely rollout, says Scafati. Eventually the systems will have information on variable annuities and exchange-traded funds, though he says that’s not there just yet. Reps were informed of the new abilities in early March.
In the past, A.G. Edwards reps have complained about the firm’s insufficient technological capabilities. Last year, CEO Robert Bagby promised “major changes would be made.” This is an example of that.
Neither Scafati nor representatives at Morningstar would disclose financial terms of the deal, but Scafati says it’s a “multiyear deal that is the most expansive package we could get from them.”