In an effort to reach more of its plan participants, Milwaukee's Strong Investments has initiated a project that will make 401k education even easier by using the Internet.
Officially unveiled to plan participants in mid-May, www.strong401k.com consists of detailed explanations and calculating tools designed to help plan sponsors and their employees understand the risks and benefits of investing for retirement. Perhaps its most innovative feature, however, is its educational video segments, which emphasize the important aspects of investing.
According to Clare Bergquist, director of 401k communications, Strong is using the Web site as another means to grant company employees who are unable to attend its on-site educational programs access to a thorough 401k education at their convenience. Of Strong's 50,000 plan members, 25% already have registered with Strong to gain online access.
According to Peter Syslack, online 401k product manager, every aspect of the Web site was assembled in-house, from the Java and HTML programming to the production. In designing the video feed, Syslack says his group took several steps to make the feature user-friendly. Visitors lacking RealPlayer can download a free copy via a link on the Web site's first page. Once installed, the video feed begins automatically upon clicking on the page, and the RealPlayer allows users to view the segments regardless of modem speed.
Syslack adds he strove for a logical layout flow for the Web site. "It's laid out so that content and calculators fit into the format of the presentation so that people cannot just watch a video or read pages, but they can be doing both in one session," Syslack explained. Strong plans to release four additional investment planning videos by the end of the year. In addition, he said, Strong also hopes to make the Web site more interactive by allowing users to ask questions and e-mail their money managers.
Deborah Severson, human resources director at FirstLogic Inc., one of Strong's clients, notes that FirstLogic employees found www.strong401k.com to be rich in content and services.
While Bergquist and Syslack acknowledged that both American Express and SEI have offered online video education to their clients, they explained that unlike these companies, Strong has tried to integrate the video segments with other tools and information on the Web site.