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Fidelity, Lincoln Life Regain First Place Among Web Sites: Dalbar

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Fidelity Investments regained its rating as best corporate life insurance and annuity Web site for consumers in the second quarter, while Lincoln Life moved back into first place among sites for financial professionals, according to the latest rankings by Dalbar Inc., Boston.

Dalbar, a financial research and consulting firm, rates more than 200 financial Web sites each quarter on such features as access to account information, ease of use, up-to-date content and consistency of appearance.

Among consumer-oriented sites, both Fidelity and Lincoln Life edged out New York Life Insurance Company, which had held first place in the category since the fourth quarter of 2004.

Fidelity regained first place in part by allowing investors to sign up for e-mail updates and reset forgotten passwords quickly, according to Chris Ross, a senior analyst for Dalbar. It also fixed a technical glitch in navigating the site, he notes.

Western and Southern Life Assurance Company rose 10 spots to fifth place by adding e-mail confirmation of client requests, providing paperwork prefilled with the client’s information and other enhancements, Dalbar says.

AIG-Variable Annuity Life Insurance Company rose seven places to sixth by making it easier for consumers to find advisors and to review or cancel new transactions.

Dalbar analysts noted life and annuity carriers in general were offering new planning tools on their consumer sites, often tailored to distinct markets.

For instance, MetLife Inc. offered a calculator designed to help parents of special-needs children develop a financial plan to meet their children’s medical, educational and other expenses.

In the same vein, OneAmerica developed a “socially conscious investment plan” that allows clients to tailor investments to personal beliefs, such as opposition to smoking or gambling.

Another common change Dalbar found among consumer sites was improved retirement planning assistance. Examples include:

o ING’s Income Wizard, which shows the effects on retirement of increasing savings, working longer and achieving higher or lower investment returns.

o Prudential Financial’s Signature Online, an educational center that contains articles, retirement calculators and other resources.

o Principal Financial’s “Hire Through Retire” suite of tools to help employees understand benefits and prepare for meetings with Principal advisors.

Among professional sites, Lincoln Life regained first place from Massachusetts Mutual Life, which had taken over the spot in the first quarter.

Among other enhancements, Lincoln Life added wireless access and offered an online survey to let advisors register their opinion of the site.

MainStay Annuities had one of the most improved professionally oriented sites, according to Dalbar. The company rose from 11th to fourth place by fixing a technical problem with site navigation while improving access to client information, introducing new training tools and providing wireless access.

Dalbar promoted Jefferson Pilot to fifth place from 10th after it speeded up page loading, added daily production reports and eased access to clients’ transaction history.

One of the most significant developments among advisor-oriented sites in general was an increased focus on online security, according to Ross.

For instance, MassMutual introduced a secure e-mail option to protect client information, while Jefferson Pilot’s improved client administration function lets advisors submit case files to the home office more securely.

Dalbar also singled out several carriers for using their professional sites to help producers work more effectively.

For instance, it notes, Fidelity Investment redesigned its platform to provide contact management and financial planning tools, handle trades and manage portfolios.

Prudential Financial also earned points for making it easier for advisors to sort through pending cases and view key information about each one.

Dalbar also lauded a number of advisor sites for improved online help. Among them: AmerUs Life, which established interactive marketing and planning support; AXA Distributors, which introduced a new sales center providing ready-made prospecting letters and sales campaigns; and Jackson National, which developed a fixed index annuities sales kit, including prepared client presentations.

One common change Dalbar found among consumer sites was improved retirement planning assistance


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