Fund company Web sites serve individuals better than they serve advisers, Dalbar Inc. says — but the sites for advisers are improving.

AIM Investment Management and Fidelity Investments provide the best sites for advisers, according to Dalbar ratings scheduled for release today. AIM and Fidelity tied for first place, followed by Oppenheimer, Franklin Templeton, and Putnam — all three of which also tied.

Louis S. Harvey, president of the Boston fund tracking company, said that though Fidelity’s adviser site differs from AIM’s, they both stand out for posting more information about their companies and responding to news fast.

The best sites for advisers provide the kinds of answers they are looking for consistently and promptly, Mr. Harvey said. Advisers rely on expert reaction to events such as the Federal Reserve’s interest rate changes to help them explain these events to their customers, he said.

Most mutual fund companies are enhancing their Web sites with items such as estate planning tools, asset allocation calculators, news, and market commentary, he said.

Fidelity segments its site for the several different kinds of financial and investment professionals that would use it, including bank reps, broker-dealers, insurers, or institutional cash managers.

In the past year AIM has added several features to its site, including a center for the different kinds of advisers who might use it, a virtual newsletter, sales ideas, and software to help advisers calculate the minimum required distribution for their clients’ 401(k) accounts.

Dalbar’s quarterly study rated 30 Web sites for content, usability, quality and range of capabilities, ease of use, timeliness of information, and accessibility to advisers and retail investors.

On the retail side Charles Schwab & Co.’s site was judged the best, followed by Fidelity’s, Strong Investments’, Vanguard’s, and Invesco’s.

According to the study, the best retail sites have many of the same features as the top ones for advisers, including home pages with a comprehensive outline of the site; frequently updated market commentary; and calculators and questionnaires to help investors determine their needs and goals, including retirement needs, IRA conversion, traditional vs. Roth comparisons, and college planning.

Most sites discuss the classes and attributes of mutual funds, as well as product information, the study found.

The best sites also have Webcasts featuring fund overviews by portfolio managers, and senior officer commentary on recent market activity, according to the study.


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