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Sun Life launches new website to support holistic retirement planning

By Alain Thériault | November 12 2010 02:34PM

With the launch of its latest website, My Retirement Café, Sun Life Financial is looking to further its strategy of providing holistic retirement planning, explained Kevin Strain, Senior Vice President, Individual Insurance and Investments in an interview with The Insurance and Investment Journal.

The new interactive, Flash-based site was launched in late October and welcomes visitors into a relaxed, café-like setting. There are two versions of the café site, one for consumers and another for advisors.

On the menu for consumers is information enabling them to determine their desired lifestyle in retirement; how much this will cost; how they will pay for it and what could go wrong, such as how inflation can eat away at savings.

Information is also included on how they can protect their retirement income and investments and minimize taxes. Case studies and various calculators, including one to estimate longevity, are also available on the site.

The café setting design is aimed at providing a familiar environment where consumers will feel comfortable and where they can look around and learn more about their retirement needs, Mr. Strain explains.

Resource centre

The advisor site, which is open to Sun Life’s career and wholesale (independent) sales force, is a resource centre offering in depth information on tax strategies, products and concepts, reference resources, marketing materials and detailed case studies.

Products are not sold to consumers through the public site. Instead, the goal is to better prepare the consumer for a conversation with their advisor about retirement planning, explains Mr. Strain. “We’re always trying to drive them back to their advisor so they can get advice. This is about education; it is not about creating a plan.”

Online education

Mr. Strain says Sun Life's approach is backed by research on how people over age fifty are using financial websites. “If you look at who is the fastest growing group using the Internet, they are the retirees and the over 55s. What are they using it for? They’re using it to look at their statements online and education. They’re using it to get information on their investments.”

This demographic group is not, however, using the Internet to make transactions, he adds. “They still want the advisor to do that. Our research says they want to go to the Internet to learn, but they want to go to the advisor to take action…That’s what we’re seeing and that’s why we created these websites.

Mr. Strain says the launch of the websites fits into a strategy the company has been pursuing for the past three years: “holistic advice from a trusted advisor.” He explains that the company wants to position itself holistically across life insurance, health insurance and wealth products.

Holistic advice is especially suited for retirement planning, he adds. “You’re shifting your needs from accumulation to de-accumulation so you require… a product that can provide an income stream for life and can protect against outliving your assets. And you still need health insurance, life insurance for estate planning…”

The My Retirement Café was developed with this strategy in mind. “We want to help advisors wrap their arms around their clients and keep those clients. So a big piece of this is around that holistic advice.”

Technology focus

Mr. Strain added that this launch also fits into the company’s strategy to offer approachable websites for both advisors and clients. Last year the company launched Advisor Match, a site that links consumers to suitable advisors and it has also built websites for its advisors. Meanwhile, on the group insurance side, in early November Sun Life announced that it is developing a solution that allows for wireless enrolment of group plan members through the new BlackBerry Playbook.

In terms of future technology plans, Mr. Strain says that Sun Life is working to improve information access to its increasingly mobile advisors. “It won’t be long before advisors will be able to see where their cases are at in underwriting on their BlackBerry.”

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