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Morningstar Investment Conference--Exciting!

What I'm watching.

There's still time to sign up for the Morningstar Investment Conference Sept. 22-24 in person in Chicago or virtually. If you haven't signed up yet, I'm letting you know that this is a great conference--and Morningstar knows how to do virtual events! Last year's MIC was fantastic, and I have no lower expectations for this one.

So, what am I excited about? First, I have to say content and speakers. The subject matter is timely and relevant, and the presenters are the who's who of the industry. I also have to admit that I'm looking forward to seeing how Morningstar betters itself with the virtual technology. This year, I'll be attending with a virtual reality headset. I'm not a gamer, so this should be enlightening and fun for me.

Here's my road map to highlights. High on my list are environmental, social, and governance issues and opportunities, what to expect and how to react to these crazy times, investing in a low interest-rate environment, and how to best communicate with clients. My favorite speakers include industry giants and Morningstar experts such as Pathstone's Mark Tibergien, Rob Arnott of Research Affiliates, Cheryl Holland of Abacus Planning Group, and Morningstar's Sarah Newcomb, Daniel Needham, Steve Wendel, Jon Hale, Christine Benz, and, of course, Kunal Kapoor.

Don't be scared by the number of my choices! Even if you can only attend a few sessions, you will benefit greatly. These sessions will be recorded and available for listening after the event. There are lots of education credits, too.

Here are my picks by day:

Wednesday Sept. 22

  • Morningstar Fund Ratings Explained. It's always good to get a better understanding of the methodology behind the Morningstar ratings, including the Morningstar Rating (the “stars”), the Morningstar Analyst Rating (the “medals”), and the Morningstar Sustainability Rating (the “globes”).
  • Integrating ESG Into Investment Portfolios. Morningstar's top ESG experts will present Morningstar's new comprehensive approach to transitioning client portfolios to ESG. This session will be full of informative and practical content.
  • Introducing Morningstar’s Research on Model Portfolios. Many advisors use model portfolios of some type, and this session will definitely illuminate pros and cons as well as comparisons. Morningstar researchers will discuss the latest trends in model portfolios and best practices for evaluating model portfolios while highlighting the top-rated solutions.
  • How ESG Shapes the Decision to Invest. Morningstar experts will discuss its recently conducted original research on how ESG options affect people who are investing for retirement and by how much. Questions to be answered include: Do ESG investment options increase the chance that people will become investors? Or do they backfire and undermine people’s interests? This session is a must for advisors offering or considering ESG portfolios.
  • Opening Keynote: Kunal Kapoor, CEO, Morningstar, Inc. For sure, you'll want to hear what Morningstar's CEO has to say.
  • Navigating Today’s Fixed-Income Minefields and Unearthing Opportunities. It's tough out there for fixed-income investing. This session is presented by two top economists who will share their expectations for fixed-income markets and where they are finding values in this tricky territory.
  • Gloom or Boom? Two Wildly Different Perspectives on Equity Valuations Keynote. We know that nobody can predict the market, but what do we say to clients? Is the market overvalued or undervalued? Hear from top experts with different views.
  • Thursday, Sept. 23

    • The Disruptors, the Disrupted, and How to Value Them Keynote. Addressing accelerating technology, the impact of COVID-19, and other "disrupts," two renowned portfolio managers with different investment styles will discuss their approaches to the current financial picture.
    • What’s Next for Core Bond Strategies? This is one of my main areas of interest this year. How can core bond strategies be successful? The presenters are three top bond managers, so there will certainly be lots of food for thought.
    • What Makes People Trust an Advisor? Learn about Morningstar's latest research on what makes an individual trust or distrust an advisor, especially among underserved populations. I am really interested to hear this!
    • Introducing the Morningstar Sustainable Investing Framework. This session is for digital attendees only (that, in and of itself, is interesting) and Morningstar's resident ESG expert, Jon Hale, will explain the new sustainable investing framework. This is a practical tool that will allow advisors to help educate clients, evaluate funds, and build portfolios that align with client needs and interests.
    • Investing for Income in a Low-Income Environment. Yes, this is another fixed-income-focused session. Considering the current interest-rate environment, this is a key issue. Hear thoughts from a diverse panel on how planners should approach bond investing now.
    • Who Are Investors? You need to understand who investors are in order to best serve your clients. With over 43 million Morningstar.com visitors and millions more from other Morningstar media platforms, there's lots of insight to be gained on who these investors are. This session is led by top Morningstar experts: Morningstar’s editor in chief, head of behavioral sciences, and chief marketing officer.
    • What Makes People Happy in Retirement? This is the key to what investors want. Hear from a panel of experts on how best to work with your retired and soon-to-retire clients.
    • Is ESG Just a Trend or Material to the Investing Process? This comprehensive session will feature a diverse panel of experts who will answer the technical as well as the human side to ESG investing.

    Friday, Sept. 24

  • Investing in Strange Times: 2020’s Implications for Long-Term Investors. This panel of Morningstar superstars will focus on how COVID-19 has impacted health, work, shopping, mobility, and energy to help advisors understand where investment opportunities lie in 2022 and beyond.
  • How to Grow Your Practice by Embracing Diversity & Inclusion. Diversity is one of the most talked-about subjects these days. Hear from a panel of top industry leaders on how a diversity and inclusion focus can lead to a better practice. They will discuss topics such as conducting a cultural audit, considering the challenges and potentials for a wider base of recruiting, and building trust and career paths among a more diverse staff.
  • Sign up now and enjoy the latest and greatest from Morningstar!

    Sheryl Rowling, CPA, is head of rebalancing solutions for Morningstar and founder of Rowling & Associates, an investment advisory firm. She is a part-time columnist and consultant on advisor-focused products for Morningstar, and she continues to actively work in the advisory business. Morningstar acquired her Total Rebalance Expert software platform in 2015. The opinions expressed in her work are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Morningstar or of Rowling & Associates LLC.