Bank One Corp. was the only banking company whose mutual fund Web site made a top 20 ranking by Kasina LLC, a New York e-business management and consulting firm.
Lee Kowarski, a consultant at Kasina, said Wednesday that most banking companies sites give short shrift to mutual funds by listing them with other banking services. Most of the sites give detailed account information but lack useful information on investment products, he said.
Banks have made some great strides in technology and can offer a lot of banking options online, but still they are lagging when it comes to investments, Mr. Kowarski said. They will have to catch up or expect to lose to the other fund providers.
The site for the One Group Mutual Funds made the top 20 list because it helps clients customize their portfolios online and supplies information about other investment options, Mr. Kowarski said.
Most banks offer brochure-ware about their mutual funds with a number to call for more information, he said. Pretty pictures and marketing language are not enough. Banks need to take the next step and offer something more on the sites.
The most interesting feature of the Bank One site, which also made the top 20 list last year, is a virtual tour that introduces customers to the site and teaches them how and where to find information about their accounts, Mr. Kowarski said.
Scot Hawthorne, manager of client administration at Bank One, who runs the Columbus, Ohio, fund units Web site, said the reason for the sites success is positioning. It is considered part of the companys sales-support arm, not merely a marketing tool, he said.
Our goal is to show information and provide support to our customers, Mr. Hawthorne said. By increasing use on the site, we are able to decrease the use of our call center, and that is a huge plus.
Mr. Kowarski said that separation of the mutual fund Web site from the marketing department and from Bank Ones main banking site has established the former as the standard for banking fund sites.
Kasina evaluated 421 mutual fund sites on 45 criteria, including branding, content, online services, usability, and Web technology. The list was pared to 42 finalists that were then graded on 172 criteria.
Bank One and Wachovia Corp. were the only banking companies whose sites were named finalists. Mr. Kowarski said Wachovias site was strong in account transaction capabilities, but the available transactions did not include mutual fund account transfers.
Besides Bank One, the companies with the top 20 mutual fund sites were: AIM Management Group, American Century Investments, American Funds Group, Charles Schwab & Co., E-Trade Group, Fidelity Investments, Founders Asset Management, Gabelli Asset Management, Invesco Funds Group, Janus Funds, Montgomery Funds, Oppenheimer Funds, Scudder Investments, Stein Roe & Farnham, Strong Investments, T. Rowe Price, TIAA-CREF, Vanguard Group, and Van Kampen Funds.
The survey also identified the top 10 sites for financial professionals, and the top 10 sites of smaller fund companies.
The companies with the top smaller-fund sites were Babson Funds, Calvert Group, Founders Asset Management, Gabelli Asset Management, MetaMarkets, Montgomery Funds, Nuveen Investments, Stein Roe & Farnham, UAM Funds, and Westcore Funds.