New York Life Tops Dalbars Consumer Web Site Rankings Lincoln Life remains best rated for its professional site

by Trevor Thomas

Fidelity Investments consumer Web site has relinquished its longtime hold on first place among life insurance and annuity company Web sites ranked by Dalbar Inc., Boston.

In the final quarter of 2004, New York Life Insurance Company moved into first place among consumer sites in the widely watched quarterly rankings by Dalbar. New York Lifes success ended a run of 15 straight quarters for the life insurance arm of Fidelity Investments as Dalbars top consumer site for life insurance and annuities.

Among life-annuity sites aimed at financial professionals, Lincoln Life, a subsidiary of Lincoln Financial Group Inc., Philadelphia, and Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Boston, remained in a virtual tie for first place.

Dalbar credited New York Life with enhancing customer service on its consumer site, including more detailed company contact information and links to corporate prospectuses. The insurer also included new wireless capabilities so clients can view their accounts and get other information over their cell phones or personal digital assistants.

Dalbar also gave points to New York Life for adding financial advice to African-American business owners.

Although Fidelity slipped slightly in its score from the previous quarter, it retained Dalbars Excellent rating among consumer sites for a record 16th straight quarter. Dalbar gives that rating to insurers that score at least 80 on its 100-point grading scheme, which evaluates sites on such factors as ease of use, consistency and number of helpful functions.

Among other firms showing impressive improvements in Dalbars consumer site rankings were MassMutual, which shot into fifth place from 16th after providing better account access to consumers, improving its financial education and adding a variety of online calculators to aid consumers in a variety of financial tasks such as retirement and tax planning, Dalbar said.

Western Southern Life Insurance Company, part of the Western Southern Financial Group, Cincinnati, moved up 9 places to number 14 in part by its use of “iframes” technology, which allows several external documents to be included on the same Web page. Western Southern used iframes to let visitors take a site tour without leaving the home page.

AXA Financial Inc., New York, gained four spots, rising to No. 9, by introducing a system that automatically alerts clients when documents such as new account statements and prospectuses are available.

Dalbar also singled out these companies for notable improvements to their consumer sites:

–Guardian Investor Services LLC, a unit of Guardian Life Insurance of America, New York, for improved access to corporate information.

–Pacific Life Insurance Company, Newport Beach, Calif., for improved account access.

–Principal Financial Group Inc., Des Moines, Iowa, and Lincoln Financial for stronger financial education.

Among sites aimed at financial professionals, Lincoln Life and MassMutual retained their top spots. Dalbar also pointed to a number of improvements to other advisor-oriented sites:

Union Central Life Insurance Company, Cincinnati, jumped 18 spots to 13th place by making it much easier for advisors to find a clients account and view a client profile and account statements.

Guardian Investor moved up 6 places to the 10th spot by redesigning its site. It improved both its consistency and usability, made navigation easier and enabled advisors to customize their home page.

In fact, a number of firms added customizable home pages, along with market news, messaging services, e-mail alerts of missed premium payments or other events and improved client data searches, Dalbar reported.

A couple of firms also beefed up their site through partnerships with outside financial organizations, Dalbar noted.

It singled out both Ameritas Variable Life and MetLife for teaming up with organizations such as Morningstar to help advisors manage such tasks as asset allocation, retirement plan support and investment recommendations.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, April 15, 2005. Copyright 2005 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.