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How Joe Mansueto's purchase of ByAllAccounts is mostly a show of faith in the Morningstar brand, global reach and the future of asset-quarterbacking as a billable service

The Woburn, Mass.-based aggregator has the dubious distinction of being a near-monopolist that can't quite crack the profits puzzle, sources say

Author Brooke Southall April 25, 2014 at 5:28 AM
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Joel Bruckenstein: When you're strong you can afford to overpay a little bit.

Pete Giza

Pete Giza

April 30, 2014 — 3:51 PM

Brooke,

Having known James Carney since the late 80’s I’d characterize him as a tenaciously successful entrepreneur and BAA’s deal with Morningstar is further proof of that. I still believe that M* got a good deal and will leverage its investment appropriately if they don’t over price it; and I emphasize investment not a mere purchase.

The very thing that plagues this industry is behind the negative tone of the value of this deal. I am sure I will take flames for this however; generally speaking, this industry is cheap and highly distracted. We should rename ROI (Return on INVESTMENT) to ROS (Return on SPEND). On the one hand we will download apps and play with them incessantly to solve little issues because we didn’t SPEND much. Eventually we tire of them like a cat with a dead mouse and drop them on the floor. All the while we’re looking past larger issues that can be solved with greater INVESTMENT but with far greater return.

M*s acquisition is an investment that will take time to nurture and fold into its infrastructure as with any acquisition. However M* is in the data business as is BAA so it’s a natural marriage. Perhaps this is a rash statement but I don’t see that acquiring BAA is that important to M*s plans for web versus desktop positioning – its apples and oranges. BAA represents additional core value to what M* already provides to the industry.

Assuming a conservative approximate 1.5MM accounts under the BAA platform, M* paid $1.60 per account amortized over 12 months while the published cost for BAA management is $6 per account. Even if the numbers are flat the extended value and ROI provided by expanded and upscale services such as reconciled aggregate and PE data are substantial. M* has the market presence and the power to bring BAA to the next level and bring it to ubiquity.

Our industry needs to think ROI not ROS. I’ve said it before – there is a reason that far and few companies in this market receive venture capital and it has a lot to do with spend versus investment thinking.

And finally I just have to say that “industry observers say[ing] it is both reassuring and troubling that ByAllAccounts is still justifying its existence” is like the weather person saying it’s going to be sunny with a chance of rain. It is a FAIL on our part if we are still trying to figure out if automation has to justify its existence in a highly data-centric industry.

Pete

Pete Giza | VP Business Development | WealthSite Inc. | www.wealthsite.com | 603.244.1288

Brooke Southall

Brooke Southall

May 2, 2014 — 10:26 PM

Thanks, Peter. Good thoughts.

Brooke

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Mentioned in this article:

Morningstar, Inc.
TAMP
Top Executive: Joe Mansueto

Technology Tools for Today
Consulting Firm
Top Executive: Joel Bruckenstein



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