Looking to differentiate their offerings through technology, life insurers are investing in retirement planning tools for plan sponsors.
Rob McIsaac, Raleigh-Durham, N.C.-based principal in the insurance practice at advisory firm Novarica L.L.C., said the increased use of Web-based technologies by retirement plan providers has led to higher levels of transparency in pricing and plan features.
“There has been a host of investments from plan providers in terms of portal capability,” Mr. McIsaac said. “They are now providing better and more actionable information for all participants in the value chain, so plan sponsors now have a much greater awareness of what costs are for competing alternatives from plan providers.”
Sue Fulshaw, Boston-based managing director of retirement plan product management at financial services firm TIAA-CREF Individual & Institutional Services L.L.C., said the company builds its own technology tools to help plan sponsors capture the information they need to understand how their employees are engaging with the retirement plan.
“Ultimately, we believe that our technology needs to support the plan sponsor's objective,” Ms. Fulshaw said.
One example of this is a retirement planning site developed by TIAA-CREF, www.myretire-ment.org. While the site provides a hub of information for users, it also provides data the life insurer can analyze for the benefit of the plan sponsor, Ms. Fulshaw said.
“We leverage user information to get real-time feedback from participants to gauge how they are doing and then we can provide that information back to plan sponsors to help them figure employee needs from the plan,” Ms. Fulshaw said.
With user experience so critical, the company is investing substantially in the latest mobile and online technologies, she said.
Likewise, Christine Tucker, Los Angeles, Calif.-based vice president of marketing of the retirement solutions division for Pacific Life Insurance Co., said the company's latest retirement planning tool, Tax Deferral Analyzer, was developed with computers and tablets in mind.
“The tool was developed using HTML5 technology so that it can be viewed from different devices,” Ms. Tucker said.