CHICAGO -- Northern Trust Global Investments is souping up its website for defined contribution participants -- adding investment advice, retirement modeling and financial planning.
A second phase will add more bells and whistles for plan sponsors.
When Northern Trust unveils the first phase in December, it will include customization capabilities that will cross over to the defined benefit side. For example, if a plan sponsor chooses, the website could include an Internet center -- patterned after one Northern Trust created for Motorola Inc., Schaumburg, Ill., last year -- so participants and company executives can model the benefits of a pension equity or cash balance plan against the benefits of a defined benefit plan, said Serge Boccassini, a Northern Trust principal and director.
"The site could be interactive and help to communicate and educate," he said.
Next year, Northern Trust expects to offer plan participants a personal finance portal that will provide access to all of their financial information run by Northern Trust or a subsidiary, Mr. Boccassini said.
The website also will be enhanced to target participants' life events. For example, if a participant is six months to a year from retiring, the system would e-mail the person with information about rollovers, he explained. Or while a participant is on the beneficiary screen of the website, the system might inquire whether the person has a will. If so, it would then ask about estate planning or whether the participant has a trust. The system also then might ask whether the participant would want to make the trust the beneficiary, Mr. Boccassini explained.
Phase two also will enhance the plan sponsor area of the website by including defined benefit and defined contribution management reporting, investment benchmarking, statistics, ad hoc reporting and Form 5500 information, he said.
Northern Trust has partnered with Business Logic Corp., Chicago -- an Internet software provider for the financial services industry -- and will be using its AccountLink to provide secure communication of comprehensive defined contribution and defined benefit data that can be used for investment advice to plan participants, Mr. Boccassini said.
Financial Engines, Palo Alto, Calif., will provide the investment advice, Mr. Boccassini said.
The look and feel and navigation of the website is being designed by Meindl and Associates, Oak Brook, Ill., he said.
The AccountLink software transports and integrates the data to Northern Trust's website and to Financial Engines in a standardized and secure manner, said Diane Talbott, vice president of retirement services for Business Logic. Already Business Logic has a way of standardizing information from several different service providers and financial institutions, she said.
In addition to transporting the data, Business Logic also is helping Northern Trust rebuild its website, Ms. Talbott said.
"The (Internet) product that we are starting with is a much more broad-based financial planning product that includes retirement assets linking a lot of financial information on a single site and an actionable way to get through financial planning," Mr. Boccassini explained.
A third phase is expected to enable participants to access information outside from accounts not run by Northern Trust, he said. No date has been set for implementation of that phase.
"You cannot make participants make decisions in a vacuum about their defined benefit and defined contribution plans," Mr. Boccassini said. "I really believe the web will create the requirement for people to be able to get all of their information in one place."