Financial Giant Tailors Web Site to Fit Diverse Audience
TIAA-CREF, one of the nation’s leading pension companies for college and university employees, has overhauled its Web site by making it possible for Internet users to access three different homepages for services. Unveiled in February, the new Web site has homepages for the general consumer, college and university financial plan administrators and independent financial planners.
“We divided it up to better serve our core audiences,” says Jim Tolve, a spokesman for the New York City-based company.
Since 1997, the financial giant has been servicing individual consumers not affiliated with participating institutions. In 1997, the U.S. Congress revoked TIAA-CREF’s tax-exempt status when it said the company had an unfair advantage in the education market.
“When we lost our tax-exempt, we moved to compete in the retail area [of financial services and products],” Tolve says.
The division of the Web site with three homepages reflects the addition of the retail consumer market. Tolve says that traditional clients, who are affiliated with TIAA-CREF through their institution, can also access information about their individual accounts.
For college and university financial plan administrators, TIAA-CREF has also introduced online enrollment capabilities, which allows enrollment to be much more tailored to individual institutions in its pension system. This capability makes enrollment simpler and more accurate for employees. By including a risk-tolerance measure and portfolio tables of suggested asset allocation, financial plan administrators are less burdened by requests for advice.
TIAA was established in 1918 as a nonprofit entity and is the insurance company component of the organization. It invests in a broadly diversified portfolio of private placements and publicly traded bonds, as well as commercial mortgages and real estate. CREF was launched in 1952 and is the investment company component of the organization. Registered as an open-end diversified management firm with the Securities and Exchange Commission, CREF offers pension system participants eight variable annuity accounts, including the CREF stock account, the largest single-managed equity fund in the world, based on assets under management of $119 billion at the end of 2000.
At the end of last year, the financial institution had $285 billion in assets under its management. The number of pension system participants is more than 2.3 million and roughly 10,000 institutions are affiliated as clients, according to TIAA-CREF officials.
In recent years, TIAA-CREF has also added program management for state-sponsored college savings trusts. These programs enable families to save for higher education with tax saving plans. Savings can be applied to nearly all colleges and universities, whether public or private, in- or out-of-state, according to company officials.
The TIAA-CREF Web center can be accessed at <http://www.tiaa-cref.org/index.html>.
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