Below is a look at some changes major distributors have made to their platforms that may have flown under your radar in the past month, collected from Distributor Profiles, a service of sister publications Ignites and FundFire.

Merrill boosting alts offering, hiring to boost expansion

Merrill Lynch is planning to hire dozens of due diligence analysts and sales support professionals to boost its alternative investments platform.

The wirehouse aims to employ 100 dedicated professionals and 140 staffers for its alternative investments platform team by the end of this year.

The hiring initiative will boost the due diligence analyst team by 50% and field sales support group by 25%, according to Nancy Fahmy, head of alt investments and specialty asset management, which serves both Merrill and Bank of America’s private bank.

The expansion of the alt investments platform team will also build out other alts investing areas, according to Fahmy. These include new niche offerings in private fund or co-investing formats, model portfolios with alts strategies, sustainable investing options and funds from diverse managers, and implementation enhancements to portfolios, she says.

Merrill also plans to fill product origination and platform management roles to bring in new funds.

Fahmy says the hiring push is also in preparation for the need to evaluate new non-traded registered alt strategies.

The alt investments group hopes to triple its client assets in the coming years, according to Fahmy.

Merrill also plans on developing turnkey model portfolios with liquid alts mutual funds and hedge fund strategies through its CIO allocation guidance. The wirehouse intends to create advanced model portfolios that include illiquid alts.

The wirehouse also plans to add specialized private funds for wealthier clients, according to Fahmy. These include concentrated exposure to investment themes, such as life sciences; strategies with narrow opportunity windows, such as pandemic-driven dislocation funds; and more investor access to private equity co-investments and hedge fund side-pocket vehicles, she says.

In line with broader efforts across BofA, Merrill is also boosting its alts offerings in sustainable investing and in funds from managers with diverse ownership.

Morgan Stanley adds portfolios to UMA platform

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management has added third-party model portfolios to its Select unified managed account platform.

The new portfolios include equity and municipal risk-based asset allocation models from First Trust, Nuveen, and Wisdom Tree.

With the addition of Nuveen and Wisdom Tree, the platform now has 12 third-party multi-asset model managers. First Trust was already a manager on the platform.

The new portfolios on the platform include:

  • First Trust-RBA U.S. Equity ETF model, which is based on Richard Bernstein Advisors tactical, top-down research. It includes rules-based and thematic exchange-traded funds across various factors, styles, market caps and sectors.
  • Nuveen’s Tax-Exempt Fixed Income models, which are 100% municipal bond portfolios that aim to deliver exposure to multiple sectors, diversification and increased income.
  • Siegel-WisdomTree Longevity and Global Equity models. The models aim to outperform a 60/40 portfolio by tilting toward dividend yield factors and low valuation ratios.

Morningstar acquires Moorgate Benchmarks

Morningstar has acquired European-based direct indexing specialist Moorgate Benchmarks.

Moorgate develops customized and personalized indices to meet clients’ personal preferences for investment factors, such as tilts to value, quality or momentum investing or their own environmental, social and governance parameters.

Combining Moorgate’s index design, calculation and administration technology and processes with Morningstar’s data, research, and index intellectual property will give investors more customized and personalized indexes that are delivered faster, according to Moorgate.

Morningstar is the latest firm to enter the direct indexing business, a niche service currently available only to wealthy investors.

Moorgate, which was founded in 2018 and is based in England and Germany, didn’t disclose the terms of the deal.

Fidelity touting its work culture to potential job applicants

Fidelity’s plan to hire 9,000 people within four months may be a challenge as many other companies are also pushing for large recruitments and face a labor shortage, according to recruiters.

The staffing boost is meant to support its growing customer base, as reported. The plans are on top of previously announced plans over the past months to hire hundreds to thousands of employees. Fidelity expects to have a total of 16,016 new hires by the end of this year, up from 7,058 new hires last year.

Fidelity may have the edge over other companies as its recruitment hasn’t slowed during the pandemic. A company spokesperson notes that the firm had hired 14,000 employees since the beginning of 2020 — an average of 20 new employees per day, including weekends.

The firm advertises its available job positions as "fully remote" on its dedicated job listing Twitter handle, @FidelityJobs. Fidelity’s flexible work arrangements may attract recruits as the firm reassures potential applicants via its job postings that it doesn’t have an old-fashioned culture.

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