Morningstar Inc., a provider of independent investment research, has announced that its Realpoint unit has launched an operational risk assessment practice to evaluate the performance of mortgage servicing firms. The new practice, which is part of Realpoint's credit ratings business, will complement its long-standing tradition of providing transparency and insight to investors in structured finance transactions. Michael Gutierrez, formerly managing director and head of servicer evaluations for Standard & Poor's, recently joined Morningstar to lead this business. "The addition of operational risk assessment capabilities adds another important component to Realpoint's analytical scope," said Robert Dobilas, chief executive officer of Realpoint. "We can now enhance our transaction-level ratings and analysis of mortgage-backed securities with a comprehensive assessment of the operational risk of the parties to the securitization process. Mike Gutierrez and his team will use Realpoint's robust data set, technology, and industry-leading analytics to develop an investor-focused solution that will establish a new standard for operational evaluations in the structured finance market." Initially, the unit will be staffed by Gutierrez and three senior operational analysts: Michael Merriam, Richard Koch, and Mary Chamberlain. "Realpoint's well-known focus on investor concerns and its highly developed analytical infrastructure will allow us to take operational risk analytics to an entirely new level," Gutierrez said. "It is increasingly apparent that mortgage servicing, as well as origination, and the ancillary service providers involved in both businesses, play a crucial role in the performance of structured transactions." The operational risk assessment unit will be based in Realpoint's New York City offices at 260 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y.