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AXA Equitable Rolls Out Online Tracking of Variable Products

AXA Equitable's Performance online analytical and research tool combines industry best-in-class features for financial advisers.

TO PROVIDE financial advisers with more dynamic information, New York-based AXA Equitable launched Performance, an online tool that enables its captive and independent sales forces to track variable insurance and variable annuity investments and to illustrate portfolio performance in various ways. AXA Equitable, a division of Paris-based AXA Group (US$138.7 billion in consolidated 2007 revenue), drew on industry best practices from both financial services competitors and general consumer financial sites to build the tool, reports Barbara Goodstein, AXA Equitable's chief innovation officer and chief marketing officer.

The March 2008 launch of Performance follows an approximately 11-month development period, Goodstein says, and marks a transition for AXA Equitable from providing advisers with a daily, revised static PDF file to what the carrier calls a state-of-the-art, completely interactive online tool. The driver behind the initiative was to encourage AXA's independent distributors to work with the carrier while also improving customer satisfaction, she notes.

According to Goodstein, the tool's functionality is broken into two types: "analysis," which includes daily unit values; and "research," which includes subaccount profiles and allocation portfolios. She explains that Performance gives financial advisers the ability to sort clients' variable product investment portfolios by asset class, subadviser or subaccount name; reference historical data in a calendar or table format, an Excel spreadsheet, a PDF or as a print-friendly HTML page; chart net values of specific subaccounts, customizing the performance period through time-frame buttons, the tool's calendar feature or slide bars; view product performance by rolling increments or at year end, and sort by specific periods to view strongest performers; and compare, contrast and chart the performance of up to 10 subaccounts over a range of periods.

AXA researched the online tool offerings not only of its variable product competitors but also general consumer financial sites such as Yahoo Finance, Google Finance and, according to Goodstein. "We evaluated competitors and comparators, and we built a site that exceeds all of them," she contends.

Performance uses San Jose, Calif.-based Interwoven's Teamsite content management system to publish data drawn from an Oracle (Redwood Shores, Calif.) database, according to Connie O'Brien, AXA Equitable's VP of Internet strategy and development, who adds that the tool uses Adobe's (San Jose, Calif.) Flash CS3 Professional application with embedded active scripts to execute charting functionality. The thin-client Web application uses J2EE and open standards and is constructed on a three-tiered architecture consisting of a Web server, an application server and a relational multimedia database (RMDBS) server, she explains.

A New Future State

The Performance tool represents a strategic shift for AXA Equitable in that it is the first enterprisewide system the carrier has developed for its producers, Goodstein points out. Historically, the carrier had separate Web sites for different distribution groups and the systems were not connected in any way, she says. "We plan to basically combine all of them; we're going to have one gateway page -- they're all going to be on the same platform, and when we build new tools and functionality, they will be distributed across the whole company," Goodstein relates. "This is the first of many installments that will take us to our future state."

While Performance currently is available only to AXA's producers, the company plans ultimately to extend the tool to end customers, along with other decision-making functionality, Goodstein says. In addition, the insurer also is building more personalized online functions for its producers, she adds.

"We're going to segment the population of our distributors and determine how we should talk to them with different messaging based on who they are," Goodstein relates. "Ultimately we're looking to create almost Amazon-like capabilities, where we combine sophisticated marketing and segmentation with the best of technology, where we're actually pushing information -- having done the research and predictive modeling to know what information will resonate with our producers and customers."

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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