February 2014: Mutual Fund Centers Review

In this e-Monitor Report, we reviewed the mutual fund research centers provided by the firms within the e-Monitor coverage group. This report focuses specifically on centralized mutual fund sections offered on client-only brokerage sites. Specifically, this report focuses on the following three key criteria:

  • Accessibility of the mutual fund research centers on the private website.
  • Research and educational resources provided within the mutual fund centers.
  • Quality and depth of detail provided on the individual mutual fund profile pages.

Overall,
e-Monitor firms do a good job of providing mutual fund research content within a unified center on the private website, as 75% received a grade of a B or higher. Every firm covered in the report places their mutual fund centers within a highly visible and logical area of their sites, the research section. All fund centers covered in this report are also housed as clearly demarcated sub-tabs, making them readily accessible from the main navigation menu.

 

Brokerage firms often offer thousands of mutual funds for investors to trade online. Other than a screening tool, we found that eight firms in our coverage group offer “fund picks lists” as a way for investors to browse through offers. Six firms offer lists that are compiled by in-house or affiliated groups, and two provide lists that are pre-selected by third-party research firms. We also found that generally, mutual fund research centers highlight and promote propriety fund offerings, with little context about the overall fund market, though firms do offer educational resources for understanding fund investing. Most firms (66%) offer educational resources, but only one-third offer market overviews. Additionally, every firm covered in the report provides a comprehensive mutual fund screener, and 83% provide fund comparison tools.

 

Mutual fund profiles are a key part of mutual fund centers, and in some cases, comprise the majority of the content. All firms in this report provide fund profiles that include baseline fund details related to the fund company, performance, risk, expenses, ratings and holdings.

Additional key findings include:

  • All 12 firms in this report offer a chart displaying the hypothetical growth in a specific fund.
  • 75% of profiles include international exposure details.
  • 90% of fund profiles provide ratings and risk information in some fashion.
  • 41% of firms provide a comparison of fund expense ratios against the overall category average.