Report Ranks Best Web Sites for Advisers

If you are looking for mutual fund Web sites that are useful in a particular area for advisers, a new report offers some insight.

Research firm Corporate Insight released its annual analysis of mutual fund Web site features for advisers. The annual Monitor Awards report rates several mutual fund firms on their adviser Web sites, giving firms in eight categories Bronze, Silver, or Gold Monitor awards, according to the company.

Rather than rating the Web sites in overall quality (an important distinction), Corporate Insight judged each firm on site-specific features. Of course some firms did excel in more than one category. For instance, MFS, Oppenheimer, and American Funds each won five Monitor awards.

The firms Corporate Insight analyzed were: AllianceBernstein, Allianz Global Investors, America Century, American Funds, Dreyfus, DWS Investments, Evergreen, Federated, Fidelity, Franklin Templeton, Invesco Aim, iShares, Lord Abbett, MFS, Oppenheimer, Putnam, and Van Kampen.

Corporate Insight noted in its report that many of the firms in its coverage group are adapting to the changing economic landscape. “Firms renewed their focus on volatility and kept advisers up to speed with in-depth commentaries, sales ideas, and educational features,’ the report said.

According to the report, the results in each category were as follows:

Adviser homepage: Firms were ranked on easily accessible information and a modern, attractive design. Award winners in this category include: DWS Investments (Gold); MFS (Silver); and Oppenheimer (Bronze). DWS launched a new page in conjunction with its rebranding in July (see “DWS Scudder Rebrands as DWS Investments).

Navigation: To win an award, firms had to offer a well-organized system with multiple menu structures, as well an efficient search function. Those firms were: MFS (Gold); American Funds (Silver); and Franklin Templeton (Bronze).

Tools and calculators: To win an award, firms had to supply a broad range of tools with advanced selection and planning capabilities, with a particular emphasis on unique offerings. Firms that won awards in the report were: iShares (Gold), which expanded on existing offerings and unveiled two new offerings about exchange-traded funds (ETFs); American Funds (Silver); and Oppenheimer (Bronze).

In the report, Corporate Insight noted a renewed focus on retirement-related planning tools. Oppenheimer “pulled ahead of the competition in terms of the most offerings” with its tools related to retirement income, required minimum distributions, and IRAs. The report also mentioned Fidelity, with its Flash-based tool showing whether clients are on track to properly fund retirement.

Literature order systems: A strong display of item information and the appearance of fund literature was key, with a higher emphasis placed on user-friendly features and sleek design, the report said. Those firms receiving awards were: MFS (Gold); Invesco Aim and American Funds (Silver); and Oppenheimer (Bronze).

Sales ideas: A firm’s collection of adviser-only sales plans won an award if it offered multi-step sales strategies combining sales plans with actionable education, prospecting, and sales materials. Award-winning firms are: American Funds (Gold); MFS (Silver) and Putnam (Bronze). One of the reasons American Funds received a gold is because of its hypothetical illustrations that advisers can edit based on the types of products the client holds.

Practice management: Firms were judged on how they help improve adviser’s back-office model, with a high emphasis placed on helping advisers gain referrals. Firms winning awards are: Invesco Aim and Oppenheimer (Gold); Van Kampen (Silver); and Franklin Templeton (Bronze).

Commentary: This year, Corporate Insight placed a high emphasis on how firms supplied commentary through different channels, such as audio, video, and downloadable material. Firms that stood out in this category were: MFS (Gold); American Funds and DWS Investments (Silver); and Oppenheimer (Bronze).

Multimedia content: Firms recognized offer a “solid mix” of podcasts, RSS feeds, streaming audio and video content, Webinars, and downloadable Web presentations. The two winning firms were iShares (Gold) and Van Kampen (Bronze).