Study: DC Web Sites Still Not Up to Snuff

February 25, 2004 ( - While defined contribution plan Web sites are adequately meeting basic information needs, many sites are still limited by low usability and suffer a lack of compelling educational materials and disappointing email offerings, according to a study.

According to the study, Defined Contribution Web Site Trends and Best Practices, only 30% of plan sponsor and 36% of plan participant sites include such basic features as a site map or search engine. Just under half (48%) of the sponsor sites boasted educational sections. For the study, more than 45 web sites were evaluated based on: Branding, Content, Online Services, Usability, and Web Technology.

While nine out of ten participant sites include educational sections, they can be difficult to use, contributing to the low level of participant usage, according to kasina, a financial services industry consulting firm. Only 4% of the industry provide sponsors with more advanced Web-based communication tools such as e-mail subscriptions (33% for participants).

“The study shows that plan providers need to find better ways to integrate e-business initiatives with their overall business goals,” asserted 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 that help sponsors manage aspects of their plan. On the participant side, the study notes that many sites lack compelling and integrated educational content, while 27% of providers reviewed fail to clearly indicate that the site is dedicated to defined contribution plans.