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|April 2011: Firms Well-prepared for Tax Season|
Not surprisingly, February was a tax-focused month in which many firms promoted and upgraded their tax centers and materials. While some firms simply updated information for the 2010 tax year, others redesigned the way they present tax materials online. In addition to tax-related frenzy, the month of February saw the release of a new retirement tool by Fidelity and new account alert options for bank customers.
Firms across many of our coverage groups supplied clients with tax-related resources on their websites during the month of February. Several firms within our e-Monitor group, including Smith Barney, Sharebuilder, Merrill Lynch, Charles Schwab and Wells Fargo, notified clients that their tax statements were available to view online. Some brokerage firms provided additional resources to help clients with the tax process, such as Ameriprise Financial, which offered a video explaining the new tax legislation, and Vanguard and Wells Fargo, which added new tax guides. A few MFM-A firms, such as Federated and iShares, updated their tax sections with supplementary help materials, calculators and forms, while other advisor firms, such as DWS and Franklin Templeton, re-launched or redesigned their tax centers. Mutual fund firms also promoted tax resources last month, including American Funds, which advertised its restructured tax center through an image on the public and private homepages, and Oppenheimer, which posted a commentary on the homepage explaining how to download TurboTax software. Rounding out firms that provided tax updates in February was annuity-firm Hartford Life, which provided an article detailing the new tax law on the advisor homepage.
Re-designed Franklin Templeton Tax Center
In addition to providing tax-related materials, some firms notified clients about special offers for discounts with third-party vendors. Brokerage firm Ameriprise Financial promoted a discount within its tax center for 35% off with H&R Block at Home. Two bank firms – Citibank and KeyBank – linked to the TurboTax website, and Citibank also promoted an offer for 35% off TurboTax software.
New Retirement Tool
Fidelity released a new Income Strategy tool in February that allows clients to analyze how well-prepared they are for retirement. The new tool assesses clients' net worth, expected life span and risk appetite. In addition, clients can add retirement accounts held at other firms to receive a more realistic retirement fund analysis. The tool ultimately analyzes monthly and yearly income and expenses after retirement, and allows clients to run a series of hypothetical assumptions to see how their income will be affected. Suggestions for meeting income goals are also provided.
In Other News...
In February, two Bank Monitor firms introduced new account alerts. Bank of America now allows customers to receive notification of their account balance either through email or SMS messaging. PNC Bank now allows account holders to receive five debit card-related alerts through email or SMS, notifying them when their card is declined or when card activity occurs outside the country, among other new options.