Merrill Lynch Wealth Management has teamed up with investment research firm Morningstar for a dramatic overhaul of its mutual fund platform.
The wirehouse plans to reduce the number of funds on the platform, currently 3,500 accounting for $330 billion, through increased due diligence, with funds which have failed to perform or attract sufficient assets set to be cut.
Merrill declined to comment on the involvement of Morningstar.
The project, which is scheduled to take 18 months, is being led by Merrill’s head of investment solutions Sandy Bolton (pictured).
Merrill’s own team of mutual fund analysts, led by head of due diligence Anna Snider, will work with Morningstar to assess existing funds on the platform and new ones pushing for a presence.
As part of the platform overhaul the wirehouse is also looking to simplify funds’ charges by standardizing fee waivers and improving communication about which funds such waivers are available on.
The overhaul will also affect the wealth managers' model portfolios, of which there are currently 150. This number will be cut and the component funds may change as a result. This part of the project will be overseen by James Costabile, who was formerly managing director of alternative investment sales.
Merrill will work with advisors where clients hold funds which fall victim to the platform revamp.
Exchange-traded funds will not be impacted by the project, but Merrill confirmed that it would consider whether to add smart beta offerings to its current range of index trackers.
Morningstar declined to comment.
Merrill’s due diligence team has undergone a few changes in the lead-up to the platform revamp.
Snider, who took on her role in February, appointed Jim Peters as head of equity due diligence, Howard Choe as head of US equities and Scott Zavack as head of hedge fund due diligence in April.
Also in April, Citywire reported the firm’s head of global mutual funds left the wirehouse after just five months in the role to join asset manager Columbia Threadneedle.