New York Life Insurance Company continued to top Dalbar Inc.’s rankings of best life insurance and annuity websites for consumers in the third quarter of 2008, while Lincoln Financial Group held onto its lead among top sites for financial professionals.
Both New York Life’s and Lincoln Financial’s websites now have earned Dalbar’s Excellent rating for 18 straight quarters.
Dalbar, a financial research company in Boston, publishes its WebMonitor report each quarter, evaluating the online faces of life insurance and annuity companies on such factors as usefulness, range of functions and appearance.
In the rankings of consumer-oriented sites, Pacific Life Insurance Company returned to second place in the third quarter, bumping AXA Equitable, which had replaced Pacific Life in that spot in the previous quarter.
AIG SunAmerica’s consumer site showed one of the more significant improvements in the view of Dalbar researchers. It rose 3 places to the sixth spot, winning points for a number of improvements, including providing users with a new e-mail form to request help in using the website and a convenient means for users to send site pages directly to friends and family.
Prudential Financial also made a notable improvement in the quarter, rising to ninth place from 16 with a number of enhancements, including a refined search engine and tools that allow users to collect articles and research on a topic into a “briefcase” or to format them for fast printing. The site also offers advice to employers on how to inform employees about the value of their benefit options.
Many insurers and annuity providers used their consumer websites during the third quarter to respond to fears about the tumbling economy, Dalbar found.
It was a period when many financial companies were showered with e-mails and phone calls from worried customers, and when advisors, too, were often beset by clients worried about dwindling savings and investments, Dalbar says.
To reach out to worried customers through their websites, many companies posted messages and detailed commentaries about the financial turmoil and emphasizing their underlying financial soundness, Dalbar reports.
For instance, TIAA-CREF offered consumers a number of resources through its site, ranging from videos and audio clips to market commentary and investment guidance. It also took pains to underline that it had only limited exposure to shaky investments.
Western & Southern Financial Group promoted its financial strength with a prominent home page ad and a statement highlighting its sound financial record. It also included a reassuring statement from its chairman, president and CEO John F. Barrett, boasting of the company’s stability.
All told, 57% of sites that offer new information on the financial markets had some sort of message from a top company executive, focusing on the state of the markets and what the company was doing to stay sound, Dalbar found.
Among firms offering video statements from key executives: