Americans are already moving money around through their smartphones — purchasing, banking, trading. Once used to this quick pace, mobile users are likely to jettison institutions that slow them down.
Yet according to Boston-based consulting firm Dalbar, which tracks mutual fund websites on a quarterly basis, the fund industry has not kept pace with the changes in society.
As its just-out quarterly review, made available to ThinkAdvisor, puts it:
“After a comprehensive analysis of websites within the mutual fund industry, it turns out that in this age of increased mobile usage, comparatively few websites deliver mobile optimized experiences. In fact, only 48.72% offer any sort of mobile-formatted experience, and of that already rather slim group, only 68.42% provide an experience that supports advisor needs.”
Worse yet, some third of the group venturing into mobile-optimized sites “completely ignore” the specific needs of financial advisors, Dalbar says. In other words, these sites in no way differentiate between consumers and advisors in providing information about funds or market views.
And many that offer a financial advisor login very often suffer from profound usability issues, like unreadable text.
“Another puzzling concept to ponder,” the Dalbar report continues, “are those firms that have made the effort to create a pseudo-professional experience through sites that are labeled for ‘professionals’ or ‘advisors,’ but then go on to reiterate generic content that would be found on a public investor website.”
(Related on ThinkAdvisor: 6 Top Mobile Websites for Investors: Dalbar)
Dalbar rated sites in a number of categories, including design, security, mobile optimization, ease of use, personalization/customization, support, interaction with the firm, interactivity, navigation and behavior centric.
Mutual fund companies’ IT staffs have their work cut out for them. As Dalbar’s managing director Kathleen Whalen tells ThinkAdvisor, “It is astonishing that … little if anything is done to create a mobile experience tailored to the needs of financial professionals. In essence, mutual funds tie financial professionals to their desk.”
But some fund companies are further ahead on the curve than the rest. Here are 10 of them:
The ETF giant does not ignore financial advisors. Its differentiated mobile-site offerings include sales support designed to help advisors initiate conversations with clients and prospects on current topicd and educational initiatives aimed at broadening a financial advisor’s perspective.
“BlackRock provides financial professionals with a number of tools and resources that they can use on the go, giving them a seamless connection with the firm, while increasing the efficiency of conducting business,” the Dalbar report states.
9. John Hancock
The Boston-based mutual fund, insurance and retirement services firm changed places (from No. 10 to No. 9) with BlackRock in Dalbar’s current ranking, the only Top 10 firms whose rankings changed from the previous report.
The firm’s high scores in functionality and usability (No. 8 in each) made up for its lower ranking in Dalbar’s behavior-centric criterion.
Another Boston-based mutual fund company hip to the times has achieved its top rank mainly as a result of a high functionality score — No. 6 of the 25 sites Dalbar compares.
In ranking sites, Dalbar gave most weight (50 points) to functionality, which it says reflects “the quality and range of capabilities provided to financial professionals.”
The New York-based fund company ranked in the Top 10 in all three of Dalbar’s functionality, usability and behavior-centric critieria, achieving its highest rank (No. 7) in usability.
Dalbar gives a maximum of 30 points for usability, which scores “the ease of entering and navigating the site, ability to locate important information and accessibility of help functions.”
6. American Funds
There is no mistaking the advisor orientation of the large fund family’s mobile-optimized site, which offers planning tools, how-to guides and other advisor-specific content.
As the Dalbar report puts it: “American Funds’mobile experience includes access to market insights, product information, a suite of sales tools and resources, as well as logins to both the AF advisor site and a link to DST Vision.”
Unsurprisingly for a Top 5 firm, Invesco achieved Top 10 scores in all three key criteria. Its highest score (No. 4) was in the behavior-centric category, to which Dalbar awards a maximum 20 out of 100 points.
Dalbar defines “behavior-centric” as web support that “addresses customers’ most frequent offline behaviors and concerns and facilitates the adaptation of users’ traditional offline behavior to the online method by making the customer feel comfortable and secure in their decision to manage their finances online.”
The investment behemoth achieved its high score through Top 3 rankings in both functionality (No. 3) and behavior-centric (No. 3).
Besides the three point-accumulating criteria, the Dalbar ranking deducted points on the basis of two criteria, one of which it calls “content currency.” The consulting firm explains: “Points are deducted when the site’s content does not meet standards of relevance, timeliness and quality.” Fidelity received no penalty points whatsoever.
3. Franklin Templeton
The Top 3 fund firm achieved the No. 1 rank in the behavior-centric category. Lowering its score was a .45-point deduction for inconsistency, the second of two areas for which Dalbar deducts points.
Dalbar explains as follows: “Websites are examined for navigational and visual inconsistencies. Points are deducted when the user experiences inconsistency in a website’s image, transitioning or content.”
2. Thrivent Financial
Interestingly, the Midwest-based mutual fund company ranked last in “behavior-centric,” but its No. 2 rankings in the higher-weight functionality and usability realms were enough to place the firm in the No. 2 spot overall.
1. Putnam Investments
The Boston-based mutual fund giant, which took the top scores in both functionality and usability, and the No. 2 spot in behavior-centric, is the only firm to break into the 80-point range and achieve the Dalbar designation of “excellent” (vs. “very good” for firms in the 70-point range and “good” for those in the 60-point range).
As the Dalbar report puts it: “Putnam Investments pulls out all the stops for its advisors, providing key commentary, business building tools, fund information and access to client accounts.”
The consulting firm heaps special praise on Putnam’s “Advisor Tech Tips” resource, which coaches advisors through activities such as using an app that lets you send a handwritten card through the U.S. Postal service without leaving your home or office.
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