Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change
Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Mutual funds fight inequality, hedge funds help it: Morningstar exec

Don Phillips
Photo: Jim Tweedie

Managing a mutual fund is nothing short of a noble calling to alleviate wealth inequality, according to a Morningstar senior executive.

"There's a certain nobility of applying your talents in a way that helps the small, average investor," Managing Director Don Phillips said at Morningstar's annual investment conference in Chicago. "Making the wealthy wealthier isn't the most noble task, but helping a small investor build up a meaningful nest egg and meet their goals, to me that's something that's absolutely very admirable,"

"There are certainly many fine people who chose to operate in less public formshedge funds, private equity money. But in doing so many of those people turn their back on ... the small investor," Phillips added.

"It's hard to be in this industry. But there' s a certain nobility associated with it. It's doing the right thing. It's working to diminish wealth inequality as opposed to accelerate it. So my hats off to the men and women who are part of this industry," he said during an introduction to a keynote speech by Pimco chief Bill Gross.

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Money manager advice for individual investors

Phillips also praised mutual fund managers for making their ideas public.

"The other thing I think is noble is the willingness of public mutual fund managers to engage in ... a public discussion about investment events. You know the hedge fund industry typically has prized its secrecy: 'We keep our best ideas for our clients, we don't want to share them with the world,'" he said. "I would contrast that with what an organization like Pimco does, where you have Bill Gross, I think every month, with this wonderful, insightful commentary that's out there."

"To me there's a real nobility in being part of that public discussion," he added.

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—By CNBC's Lawrence Delevingne