Every quarter, Dalbar Inc., a Boston-based research firm, examines insurance, annuity and mutual fund Web sites to spot innovative changes and identify trends across the financial services industry. The company ranks the top 25 Web sites based on the scope of functionality and usability. In addition, the age, relevance and quality of the content and the reliability of the sites also are factors in the rankings.During the second quarter, Dalbar notes that many firms either launched new Web sites or added new sections to improve usability for financial professionals. Among its findings:

* Transamerica launched its new TransAct Producer Web site, which enables producers to customize up to 20 quick links. The Transamerica site also has several new sections, including a "Now Available" section that informs producers when materials and downloads become available on the Web site.

* Guardian Investor Services added an "In the Spotlight" section for financial professionals that details industry trends and Guardian-specific developments.

* Penn Mutual's Producers Place Web site will begin accepting electronic funds transfer (EFT) annuity payments from clients' Pershing accounts. The feature was developed through a partnership with the Agents' Advisory Council.

* Fidelity Investments launched an annuity and insurance program to help registered investment advisors meet the needs of their affluent customers. The new program integrates Fidelity Insurance Agency's products with Fidelity's brokerage platform, providing advisors with a way to consolidate clients' insurance information with other investments held with the company.

* Phoenix Wealth Management added a variety of asset allocation resources to its Advisor Center Web site. These tools were created to help advisors promote asset allocation, and provide resources to analyze and fulfill their clients' needs.

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