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Making the Most of Fund Screener

The Fund Screener tool on this website is a powerful yet simple to use way of searching for, assessing, and comparing and contrasting managed funds. Fund Screener lets you mix and match a variety of fund criteria - such as product type, asset class, costs, and Morningstar Rating - to filter the available universe of thousands of funds in greater detail to find those that interest you most. Let's take a closer look at how you can get more out of this tool.


Choosing from Pulldowns
Fund Screener enables you to specify from up to 17 different criteria in your search.

For example, let's say that you're looking for large-cap, value-style retail international share unit trusts. Because you're starting with $2000 to invest, you're interested in funds which accept minimum upfront initial investment amounts of $2000 or less. You're also interested in funds which have high Morningstar Ratings - funds which have track records of producing strong returns while taking less risk than their peers.

- First, from the 'Fund Manager Name' pulldown, choose 'Any' (because you don't want to restrict yourself at this stage to any one particular fund manager);

- Then, from the 'Legal Type' pulldown, choose 'Investment Trusts';

- Then, from the 'Category' pulldown, choose 'World Large Value';

- Because you're interested in retail funds, from the 'Retail/Wholesale' pulldown, choose 'Retail';

- From the 'Minimum investment' pulldown, choose 'Less than $2000';

- Under the 'Morningstar Rating' heading, check the boxes which show five and four stars, because you're interested in funds with high Morningstar Ratings;

- Finally, click on the blue 'Show result' button on the bottom right-hand side of the page.

This will bring up a list of all the retail large-cap, value-style international share funds which have four or five-star Morningstar Ratings, and which accept minimum initial investments of $2000 or less.

If you're a Premium Member, you can also choose to select funds using our fund research analysts' Morningstar Analyst Ratings, from 'Gold' through to 'Not Ratable

Once you've used Fund Screener to select a group of funds, the 'Show result' button takes you through to another screen which displays the funds that you've selected. From here, six more pulldowns show you more information about your funds.

The default 'Overview' view shows you key basic information about your funds: their names, their current Morningstar Ratings, the category to which they belong, and in the 'Net Assets $Mil' column, the funds' latest-available sizes.

Performance - Return
The 'Performance - Return' view shows you the latest six-month, one-, three-, five-, and seven-year returns for the funds you've selected. These returns include both the income distribution and capital growth components, and are published net of ongoing fees.

You can re-rank your group of funds by any of the performance time periods, just by clicking on the relevant column header. A small triangle will appear next to the column header, indicating which time period you've chosen to rank the funds by. If the triangle points down, you've ranked the column of information in descending order, from best to worst. If the triangle points up, then you've ranked from worst to best.

Additionally, if your search brings up more than 25 funds, the box at the bottom of the page will show you how many pages of data you've brought up. You can then click backwards and forwards between these pages using the backward and forward arrows next to this box.

Category Ranking
The 'Category Ranking' view shows you how the funds you've selected have stacked up compared to their competitors (other funds in the same category) over the past six months, one, three, five, and seven years. Again, you can rerank your group of funds by one of these data columns, just by clicking on the relevant column header.

Fees & Expenses
The 'Fees & Expenses' view shows you the costs you're likely to have to pay to invest in the funds you've selected. The first two columns, labelled 'MER %pa' and 'ICR %pa', are measures of the fund's annual ongoing fee, expressed as a percentage of your investment in the fund. The Indirect Cost Ratio, or ICR, ongoing fee measure is a replacement for the former Management Expense Ratio, or MER. You pay either an ICR or an MER, but not both.

The next column, 'Entry Fee %', shows the maximum entry fee that may come with the fund (often rebateable if you invest through a direct broker), while the 'Exit Fee %' column shows any fee the fund manager charges when you redeem your investment.

The final column shows any 'Buy/Sell Spread %' which comes with a fund. When you buy and sell units in a fund, the fund manager has to either invest the money that you're giving them, or provide money if you're redeeming your investment. This activity can generate transaction costs, such as brokerage on share trading. The buy/sell spread is the difference between the fund's entry and exit prices, and goes towards paying for these transaction costs. The rationale for the buy/sell spread is that existing investors in the fund should not be disadvantaged by other investors buying or redeeming units.

Prices & Distribution
The 'Prices & Distribution' view shows you the funds' latest entry and exit unit prices - in other words, the price you'll pay for buying a unit in the fund, and the price you'll receive for selling a unit - along with the date of these prices. The final column, 'Distributions Frequency', shows you how often the fund makes income payments, which is generally monthly, quarterly, six-monthly, or annually.

The sixth and last of the view pulldowns is called 'Operations'. In this view, you can see the fund's minimum initial investment, expressed in thousands of dollars. The 'Product Type' column shows you whether Morningstar defines the fund as 'retail' (if the fund has a minimum initial investment of less than A$50,000), or 'wholesale' (greater than A$50,000).

The column headed 'Legal Type' lets you see whether the fund is an investment trust (sometimes also called a unit trust), a superannuation fund, an investment bond, or a pension, while 'Status' shows you whether the fund is currently open or closed to new investment.

The final column, 'Ticker', is a unique identifier code Morningstar assigns to every fund on our database. (It's worth jotting down the Tickers for funds you're particularly interested in, as the Ticker is a great shortcut for looking up funds on this website, without having to retype in what can often be lengthy fund names and abbreviations.)

Changing Your Criteria, and Starting Over
You can change your selection criteria at any time, just by clicking on the 'Revise search' link on the top left-hand side of the screen. This takes you back to where you started, and lets you add new criteria, or change things you've already selected. You can also wipe the slate clean and start all over again, just by clicking on the 'New search' link.

Phillip Gray is Morningstar's Editorial & Communications Manager. He welcomes your email but cannot offer specific portfolio advice. He can be reached at phillip.gray@morningstar.com