Standard & Poor's Launches Award Program
Standard & Poor's Equity Research is creating a U.S. Mutual Fund Excellence Awards program to recognize funds that have most consistently achieved the highest overall ranking of five stars based on S&P's proprietary, quantitative holdings-based research.

Recipients will be named in nine categories including international and global equity; large-cap, mid-cap, small-cap and multi-cap domestic equity; blended individual securities; blended funds of funds; taxable fixed income; and new and notable (for funds that have existed less than four years).

S&P Equity Research a year ago began using a holistic, bottom-up research approach that looks at a fund's underlying stock, bond and mutual fund holdings, as well as performance, risk and cost factors. The firm has ranked more than 19,000 mutual funds using the system. S&P's quantitative methodology is designed to go beyond the fund industry's traditional approach to rankings, which typically looks historically at risk and adjusted returns. The finalists for the new awards will be announced soon.

"By moving beyond traditional performance-based research to include factors such as quality of holdings, manager tenure, risk, relative cost and more, we believe we are able to provide new insight into mutual fund dynamics," says Stephen Biggar, S&P's Global Equity Research managing director.

AAM Markets WisdomTree ETFs
WisdomTree Investments has chosen Advisors Asset Management Inc., based in Monument, Colo., to market its ETFs to independent broker-dealers.

The two firms reached an agreement for AAM to serve as the external marketing agent for WisdomTree ETFs. "We believe AAM's national presence and strong background will provide WisdomTree valuable additional reach into an important category of investment professionals," says Bruce Lavine, WisdomTree's president and chief operating officer.
SEI Program Helps With Regulations
SEI, of Oaks, Pa., is launching Ready-4-Reform, a program to help advisors prepare for new regulatory and legislative changes. Ready-4-Reform will explain the new regulations and the implications for advisory firms. It also will help advisors rewrite Form ADV Part II language, offer business analysis tools, and provide ongoing support through an e-mail hotline and investor-ready communication materials.

The program was created based on feedback from advisors, some of whom indicated they are overwhelmed by the new regulations and how they will impact their businesses. Nearly 75% of 144 advisors said they are not familiar or only somewhat familiar with the impact of the reforms.

Morningstar Offers New Office Suite
Morningstar Inc. has created a new feature in Morningstar Office to help independent financial advisors create custom investment performance reports.

 Morningstar Report Studio allows advisors to create their own reports or edit and augment templates provided by Morningstar. The reports can be tailored to individual clients or used as newsletters for all clients of a firm. Report Studio allows firms to incorporate their own logo and charts, customize disclosure information and make other design changes.

Vanguard Adds Annuity Service
Vanguard is introducing a new Web-based service for individuals to compare income annuities from leading insurance companies. The online service is for individuals who want a guaranteed retirement income. For more information, visit

Folio Institutional Opens Portfolio Exchange
Folio Institutional, McLean, Va., has created a new online service that allows its advisory clients to market investment models to other RIAs.

The Model Manager Exchange lists models ith their names, objectives and contact information for the manager. Advisors negotiate their own licensing and compensation with each other. Additional information is available at

iShares Launches New Fund
iShares Exchange Traded Funds has created the iShares MSCI New Zealand Investable Market Index Fund. The fund is the first ETF focused solely on the New Zealand market.

New Zealand is expected to have 3% GDP growth in 2010 and 2011 with inflation targeted at 1% to 3%. The country's economy has benefited from high growth rates in neighboring Asia and Australia, according to the International Monetary Fund.