Dalbar Inc.’s rankings of best life insurance and annuity company websites saw some noteworthy shifts during 2008, although sites at the top of the list changed little.
Among its top 25 consumer-oriented sites for the fourth quarter, Dalbar, Boston, again gave New York Life Insurance Company top grades, with strong scores for usability, functionality, and for accommodating the needs of site visitors. It was followed by AXA Equitable, carrying on its back-and-forth battle with Pacific Life for second place.
SunAmerica landed in fourth place on the consumer site list, advancing 2 spots since the third quarter to fourth place after boosting its score from around 71 to almost 74 in Dalbar’s scoring system.
In fact, SunAmerica showed the strongest advance among all consumer sites for all of 2008, after not even landing in the top-25 list in the first quarter. Among other improvements, SunAmerica enhanced navigational menus, made better use of page space and improved graphics, Dalbar researchers say. It also updated content with additional educational tools for investors on such topics as retirement planning while expanding information about company products.
Thrivent Financial’s consumer site made a strong move up, finishing 9th in the 4th quarter after sitting in 18th place for most of the year. Thrivent completely redesigned its site to present information in a clear and logical manner, Dalbar says. The company updated the look and the overall impression of the site while making more effective use of page space. Much of the improvement resulted from site visitors’ responses to Thrivent’s online feedback survey in 2007, according to Dalbar’s report on its rankings.
Also improving substantially was Prudential Financial’s consumer site, winding up the year in 10th place, up 3 spots from its position in the first quarter of 2008. Dalbar’s raters liked the site’s addition of a “briefcase” where users could store article and market commentary, along with improved search options with filtering options that let visitors refine their hunt for information. Pru also won points from Dalbar for putting a “Women & Money” area on its site.
Dalbar notes some life insurance and annuity websites added easy-payment options for customers. For instance, Genworth Financial added a feature that lets clients make life or long term care insurance premium payments online on the home page, without the need to sign into their account. Thrivent also added a bill pay option for its term, universal and variable universal life policies as well as for fixed or variable annuity contracts.
Another development Dalbar noted in the quarter was a number of firms offering advice on getting household finances back on track in the f ace of the unstable markets.