is hoping to gain an edge in the 529 college savings plan market by letting investors open accounts directly through the Web. The Menomonee Falls-based firm opened a site called http://www.strong529plans.com/
The site will allow investors to create accounts entirely online using an electronic signature. They can also fund the account using an electronic transfer from a checking account. Strong claims that the process will take only five to ten minutes.
Strong is also pushing the site at employers seeking to offer savings programs for their employees. At this time, though, there is no evidence that the corporate market will become substantial.
"Saving for college using 529 plans is one of the hottest topics for investors today," says Brian Melter
, director of E-Commerce for Strong Financial Corporation. "Our goal is to make it as simple as possible to open a new 529 account online and take advantage of the tremendous benefits 529 plans offer."
While this service cannot hurt Strong's efforts, it is unlikely to be a magic bullet either. Most programs have discovered that 529 plans are one of those products that are sold and not bought. Web sites have not proven as effective a distribution channel as advisors (who will often complete most of the paper work for customers).
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