Fidelity, MassMutual Web Sites Earn Top Dalbar Honors

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Despite a strong challenge from New York Life, Fidelity Investments retained its position as the best-rated consumer Web site among life insurance and annuity providers during the 2nd quarter of 2004, according to Dalbar Inc.

Among sites aimed at professional financial advisors, Massachusetts Mutual Life showed an impressive gain to replace Hartford Life Insurance Company in the top spot, according to Dalbar, Boston, a research firm that evaluates financial companies? online presence.

A number of company sites improved enough to earn Dalbar?s Excellent rating. Among consumer sites, Fidelity Investments, which has now held the Excellent designation for 14 straight quarters, was joined by New York Life.

Among professional sites, MassMutual and Lincoln Life were the only ones to earn the Excellent designation, which Dalbar reserves for sites scoring 80 or better in its 100-point ranking system.

Dalbar rates more than 200 financial Web sites on their ability to support the needs of online users. It evaluates each site on a variety of points, including:

Functionality, such as ability to provide a client?s account information.

Ease of use, including site speed and help in using the site.

Currency of content.

Consistency of appearance.

Ability to fit users? behavior.

Dalbar pointed to a number of improved consumer sites.

State Farm?s consumer site advanced 9 places during the quarter, largely due to a new “Banking Quick Tour” section. USAA Life advanced from 11th to 9th place with new tools to help consumers create personal financial plans and manage their portfolios. And Safeco jumped from 23rd to 18th place by adding more sales promotion to its site.

Dalbar also singled out Western Southern Life, AXA Financial and Thrivent Financial for a variety of improvements, such as easier navigation and a more convenient logon procedure.

One new arrival appeared on Dalbar?s top-40 list of consumer sites: Union Central Life Insurance Company, Cincinnati, which landed in the 24th spot.

Among Web sites for financial professionals, MassMutual introduced a number of new calculators, helping it jump 4 places to the No. 1 spot. It also gained points for providing new sales ideas for developing wealthy clients.

Transamerica advanced 5 places, entering the top 5 by, among other things, making it easier for advisors to track pending business.

AXA Distributors added a “Sales Wizard” feature that helps agents complete annuity applications online for clients. A demonstration on its home page shows advisors how to complete the application.

Guardian Investor Services added industry trend information and company news as well as a retirement income guide to its home page.

Penn Mutual?s producer site began accepting annuity payments for many clients during the quarter, using electronic fund transfer, a feature developed in partnership with the Agents? Advisory Council.

Dalbar notes a few companies geared up assistance to producers who sell to affluent clients. For instance:

? Fidelity Investments? site allowed agents to integrate information on insurance agency and brokerage products in their clients? portfolios. It also made it possible for producers to download clients? insurance information into third-party portfolio management systems.

? Ameritas Tools, the producer site of Ameritas Life Insurance Company, helped agents design asset protection tactics.

? Manulife Financial launched a new sales toolkit to show advisors how to set up private financing arrangements so that wealthy clients could fund an irrevocable life insurance trust.

Other producer-oriented sites were cited for easing agents? paper-processing routines. For instance:

? Prudential Financial offered an automatic application for brokers who want to be licensed to sell the company?s products.

? Amerus Life offered an online process for sending insurance applications and other documents to the home office.

? Midland National allowed professionals to download its brochures, applications and other materials through its Web site.

Dalbar also cited several firms for giving advisors extra help in enhancing relationships with clients. These included Phoenix, which added asset allocation tools; Travelers Life & Annuity, which facilitated agents? reviews of client coverage; and Ameritas, which promoted the use of life insurance as a supplemental source of retirement income for clients.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, September 3, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.