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Friday, February 20, 2009

A Mutual Fund Spy Pens a Book

Reported by Armie Margaret Lee

Russel Kinnel, director of mutual fund research at Morningstar, has wrapped up a book called Fund Spy (he writes a column with the same name on Morningstar's Web site), which aims to help investors pick out mutual funds. For fund industry insiders, the juicier chapters might be eight and nine, in which Kinnel gives the dish on 23 no-load and 10 broker-sold fund shops.

Fidelity, he writes, is "no company for old men," at least on the portfolio management side. He notes that not many portfolio managers stay past age 45, "no doubt in part because so much depends on them." As for MFS, the firm, he says, has gone from "forgettable to intriguing."

Kinnel also weighs in on Artio's name and discusses the Wellington wannabes, the unusual culture at Brandywine and even the staircases at Strong Funds.

"I always enjoyed visiting Strong Funds, where founder Dick Strong mandated that every screw in the building be turned so that the groove was vertical in order to avoid collecting dust, and some staircases were designated for going up and others going down so that no one would bump into anyone while going the other way," he writes.

The book also includes a list of 20 funds that passed Kinnel's test. Vanguard has five funds on the list, the most among any company.

The book, published by John Wiley & Sons, is available on Amazon.com and will hit bookstores March 9. Morningstar managing director Don Phillips wrote the foreword.

"If you look at other investing books, there's a lot of bad advice out there," Kinnel told The MFWire in a phone interview Friday afternoon. Fund Spy, he said, seeks to help investors "tune out the noise."  

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