Dalbar Inc., Boston, revised its widely watched rating system for ranking financial Web sites in the third quarter of 2003, the better to reflect site visitors interests, says a company spokeswoman.
The change in the rating system caused the scores of life insurance and annuity providers to drop, although many held steady in their place in the rankings of life insurance and annuity companies when compared to the position they held in the second quarter.
Another change that Dalbar introduced in the third quarter was the use of decimals in its scoring system to reduce the number of ties in its rankings.
Fidelity Investments Inc., Boston, retained its lead on Dalbars ranking of consumer-oriented Web sites.
Among sites aimed at financial professionals, Hartford Financial Services Group rose to first place, edging out last quarters leader, Allstate Financial, Northbrook, Ill.
As a result of Dalbars changes, Fidelitys consumer site and Hartfords professional site were the only ones to retain Dalbars “excellent” designation, awarded to sites scoring 80 or better on its 100-point evaluation system.
That was a significant drop from the second quarter, when Dalbar designated 9 consumer sites and 5 professional sites as excellent.
The firm changed its rating system to better reflect users needs, based on its research, says Csilla Von Csiky, the companys managing director.
“We have given more weight to features consumers and financial professionals identified as important to them,” Von Csiky says.
For instance, Dalbar found consumers often go to financial sites to check the performance of their investments, review account balances, access statements and find answers to specific questions.
On the professional side, Dalbar researchers looked at a sites ability to enable producers to review and access clients accounts, fill out forms and paperwork, compare product performance, check interest rates and dividend figures, change client investment allocations, conduct market research and obtain product information, Von Csiky notes.
Dalbar plans even more changes in the first quarter of next year to reflect a sites ability to fit the behavior of both consumers and professionals, she says.
The tougher standards used in the third quarter didnt change relative rankings dramatically, she adds.
“We have upped the ante, and some of the scores are actually lower now. But thats across the board,” she explains.
Fidelity held onto first place among consumer sites, even though its score dipped from 92 to around 88 in the third quarter.
However, Allstate fell to second place among professional sites after its score fell to 75 in the third quarter from 90 in the second quarter.
MetLife Inc., New York, leaped to 10th place among consumer sites, from 21st place in the previous quarter, despite a decline in its score from 71 to about 67.
Dalbar credited the companys site for alerting users to new online features and adding a section that helps consumers build financial strategies based on different life stages.