Morningstar provides investment research and related products to individual investors, financial advisors, and institutional clients. The Company segments its operations into the Investment Information Segment, which offers data, software, and research products, and the Investment Management Segment, which includes its asset management services. Most of the Company's revenues come from sales within the United States, but Morningstar aslo offers local versions of its products designed for investors in Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, and South Africa.
Morningstar's organic growth has been achieved through the improved products as well as its ability to market these products to individuals and institutions. The Company has also grown through acquisitions. In April 2010, the Company completed the acquisition of Realpoint, LLC, a Nationally Recognized Statistical Ratings Organization (NRSRO) that specializes in structured finance.
When the economy and financial sector are growing, the demand for Morningstar's products and services increases. Like many of its competitors, a significant portion of Morningstar's revenues come from terminal subscriptions to Morningstar.com, Morningstar Advisor Workstations, and Morningstar Direct. Low employment-levels and overall low activity in the financial-services industry has the potential of leading to corresponding declines in the amount of renewals as well as the overall demand for these products. In response to the economic recession beginning in 2007 that led to declines in subscriptions, Morningstar reduced compensation expense, which accounts for about two-thirds of the Company's costs.
Increased consolidation in the financial information industry has allowed the bigger players to gain market share at the expense of smaller providers like Morningstar. In order to gain market share, Morningstar has increased both the quality of existing products as well as the quantity of new products its offers. While a portion of Morningstar's growth is organic, the Company has also grown significantly from acquisitions in 2008, 2009, and 2010.
While Morningstar's capabilities and assets have increased, these acquisitions have the potential of burdening the Company's cash position or requiring external sources of financing. In addition, a high degree of acquisitions have associated integration and marketing costs.
Because of Morningstar's diverse set of products and services, it faces different competitors across each division. Many of these rivals are more specialized, focusing on either a particular product or particular customer base, while other have significantly greater resources, which allows them to respond quickly to and implement new technologies. However, no one company offers similar product solutions on all three of Morningstar's segments.
Some minor players include personal finance and investing portals such as Yahoo! Finance and MSN Money, asset management leasers such as Zephyr Associates and Wilshire Associates, and financial research publishers such as Standard & Poor's (a subsidiary of McGraw-Hill Companies (MHP).