Morningstar's Advisor Workstation: One Advisor's Review

Over the past 25 years, I've used many tools from Morningstar (MORN). In this post, I'll share some of my experiences with these products. 

As a new advisor years back, I used Principia and found it very helpful. I became comfortable with it and over time created custom layouts, alerts and exported data to Excel with regularity. Over all, I have a deep appreciation for the quality of Morningstar's products and the helpfulness of its technical support team. Recently, I've learned that Morningstar is discontinuing the desktop version of Principia, moving it to the cloud. Because it had been a while since I used a Morningstar product, I inquired about some of its other tools. I'm glad I did. 

I've used Advisor Workstation in the past, but at the time I was not impressed. This online tool seemed clunky and had many limitations. Perhaps it was built on older technology? Also, it did not allow exports to Excel. The revised version, however, is much improved. It will now export to Excel, is more comprehensive and has a much better feel. 

When you use Principia, you have to subscribe to each module separately. For instance, if you want to build a portfolio or do research on mutual funds and stocks, you have to purchase each module separately. Purchasing a subscription to mutual funds, closed end funds, ETFs, stocks, etc., can get pricy. Plus, the data is only updated monthly and the update arrives about seven to ten days after the month end.

The new and improved Advisor Workstation is updated daily and my particular subscription includes mutual funds, ETFs, closed end funds, individual stocks, individual bonds, the hypothetical tool, an investment policy statement generator, various calculators and some tools inherited from Ibbotson. As mentioned, the data is updated daily, but all reports are based on the prior month-end data. Finally, Advisor Workstation includes many more data points than Principia and the price is fair. 

I've also used Morningstar Office in the past. My experience with it was neutral. In short, I found it contained many things I did not need and would never use, but had to purchase. Office is a great research tool and if you need performance reporting and some light financial planning capabilities, it's something to consider. However, I had glitches with the performance reporting functionality. Actually, the problem was with the download and may have resided with my custodian at the time (not TradePMR, my current custodian). To summarize, Office is a much more expensive offering so make sure you need most of its capabilities, and at the time that I subscribed it required a 12-month contract. 

In closing, I think I'm going to really like Advisor Workstation as it will broaden my research capabilities without a contract and all at a competitive price point. If interested, you should check to see if your custodian or BD has some arrangement with Morningstar whereby you would receive a discount. Many, if not most, do. 

Thanks for reading and have a great week!

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