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Schooling Families

New York Life launches online education planning tool to reinforce relationships with existing and prospective customers.

New York Life has partnered with American Education Services (AES; Harrisburg, Pa.) to create New York Life Education Planner, an online resource to assist families in planning higher education. According to New York Life, the site is a "one-stop guide" that includes career assessment capabilities, school search tools, college match quizzes, tips on completing applications and essay writing, a tutorial on financial aid packages, and calculators to help consumers determine their budgets. A customizable toolbox of online resources enables users to save activity logged at the site for future reference.

Education Planner is sponsored by AES, which provides content. But the site,, was built by New York Life (New York; $202 billion in assets).

Ken Hittel, vice president of New York Life's corporate Internet department, says that the site is meant to encourage relationships with prospective customers and strengthen ties with existing customers by providing a "value-add" - in this case, the specific educational expertise of AES. "While it makes eminently good sense for New York Life to explain to people how they might use life insurance to help finance a child's education, for example, we're not necessarily experts in picking the best civil engineering program for a 14-year-old," he explains. "But AES definitely can supply that kind of information, and that's why the affiliate relationship really makes sense for us."

Hittel says the site also was intended to complement New York Life's relationship with Upromise, a free service that enables consumers to get money back from participating companies for education expenses. As an affiliate company - and the Upromise network's sole provider of life insurance and variable annuities - New York Life contributes to members' Upromise savings accounts, which families can use toward higher-education costs.

The carrier based Education Planner on its own Web site. New York Life made templates and design specs available to AES and supervised construction of AES' content within the templates, according to Hittel. "For us, the technical challenge was how best to package this to recognize the identities of both AES and New York Life," he says.

To popularize the site, New York Life gave it front-page exposure at Education Planner was also featured in the carrier's subscription e-mail, which has a circulation of 30,000. "We have also created ads that we run throughout relevant sections of, as well as on our agency portal," Hittel adds. "We've tried to bundle [Education Planner and Upromise] together so that the agent is very aware of both as value-adds that they can provide to their clients and prospects."

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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