This spring, Merritt Research Services marks the 30th anniversary year of its founding as a subscription-based data service. Initially launched at the 1986 National Federation of Municipal Analysts' national conference by the investment management firm, Van Kampen Merritt, The Merritt System, as it was called at that time, was created as a first-of-its kind, turnkey software database tool. Designed to run on early generation personal computers, data searches and reports often required hours to complete versus the seconds it takes today. In 1996, Van Kampen teamed up with Investortools to host the data packaged by Merritt on the newly designed CreditScope platform. The alliance provided the opportunity to match a complete credit analysis tool with one of the nation's leading portfolio analytic technology companies, serving much of the institutional municipal bond community. In 2001, Merritt Research Services, LLC was spun off from Van Kampen by its owner at the time, Morgan Stanley, to become the independent company based in Hiawatha, Iowa that it is today.
Merritt's expanding data operations team currently tracks over 10,000 municipal bond credits, nearly ten times the number included in the first Merritt System data universe, which in its initial phase focused solely on only about 1,000 hospital bonds. By 1989, The Merritt System added wholesale and retail electric enterprises as well as airports, and was well on its way to incrementally to cover the 13 standard credit sectors that it follows today. Last year, the Community College sector was the most recent municipal bond sector to be added to the CreditScope user package, with others to follow. Beyond additional credits and sectors, Merritt has prided itself in being a pioneer in identifying new credit data elements, ratios and approaches to better size up municipal bond credit quality, including the incorporation of Governmental Accounting Standard Board changes that enhance the user's depth and potential for financial analysis.
While we remain committed to expanding our content and improving user satisfaction, we are steadfast in the importance we place on providing accurate and consistently placed data quality, which we believe is the hallmark of our mission. With the launch of our newly designed website, we have expanded and enhanced our benchmark median section for the municipal bond market credit sectors that we cover. These presentations provide only a small sample of the data that we compile for our clients in each sector. Medians for the most recent audit year represent the results of a partial sample since they are based on only those financial audit reports that we have seen reported to date. We update these medians on a regular basis.
Thank you for visiting our website. As always, the entire team at Merritt Research welcomes your feedback and suggestions.
Richard Ciccarone, President & CEO