kasina names Top Defined Contribution Web Sites for Plan Sponsors and Plan Participants

Study finds sites meet basic user needs with regard to account access, but are generally limited by low usability and a lack of advanced communication offerings

NEW YORK, February 25, 2004 – �Defined Contribution Web Site Trends and Best Practices,� a new study that identifies the top five plan sponsor and the top five plan participant Web sites, has been released by kasina, a leading strategic consulting firm for the financial services industry.

For the study, more than 45 different web sites were evaluated based on the five kasina Web index categories: Branding, Content, Online Services, Usability, and Web Technology. The report concluded that the most basic user requirements relating to account information and access � were being adequately met by most defined contribution Web sites. However, the potential of the medium was not generally being maximized, with many sites limited by low usability, a lack of compelling educational materials, and disappointing email offerings.

For example, only 30 percent of plan sponsor and 36 percent of plan participant sites include such basic features as a site map or search engine. Just under half (48 percent) of the sponsor sites have educational sections. While, nine out of ten participant sites include educational sections, they can be difficult to use, according to kasina, contributing to the low level of participant usage. Only four percent of the industry provide sponsors with more advanced Web-based communication tools such as email subscriptions (for participants, the comparable figure is 33 percent).

�The study shows that plan providers need to find better ways to integrate e-business initiatives with their overall business goals,� stated Derek Evans, Senior Consultant at kasina. �Too often the Web is viewed as simply a place to post account data. Instead, it should be seen as a dynamic tool that can increase plan participation and deferral rates, help investors achieve proper diversification, and support the sponsor�s efforts to fulfill its fiduciary responsibilities.�

The kasina report recommends that providers expand plan sponsor sites to include more interactive reporting capabilities, as well as features beyond reporting that help sponsors manage aspects of their plan. On the participant side, the study notes that many sites are lacking in compelling and integrated educational content, while 27 percent of providers reviewed fail to clearly indicate that the site is dedicated to defined contribution plans.

The top sites are significantly better than the industry average in terms of site functionality, organization, and appearance, according to kasina. �The best sites are clearly doing better than the industry as a whole, but even the Top sites have left opportunities to advance their offerings to the next level,� said Derek Evans.

kasina�s Top Five Plan Sponsor/Plan Participant Web Sites for 2004

  • Plan Sponsor Sites
    • Fidelity Investments (www.fidelity.com/workplace)
    • Principal Financial Group (www.principal.com)
    • Putnam Investments (www.putnam.com/plansponsor)
    • T. Rowe Price (rps.troweprice.com/sponsor)
    • The Vanguard Group (bridge.vanguard.com)
  • Plan Participant Sites
    • Fidelity Investments (www.fidelity.com/workplace)
    • JPMorgan Retirement Plan Services (www.retireonline.com)
    • Principal Financial Group (www.principal.com)
    • Putnam Investments (ibenefitcenter.putnam.com)
    • The Vanguard Group (retirementplans.vanguard.com)

kasina is a management consulting firm focusing solely on the asset management industry. We help asset management companies develop their strategies, identify trends, benchmark against their competition, and prioritize initiatives relating to business goals and Internet technology. Visit www.kasina.com.