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Rating:S&P Joins 529 Fray Not Rated 4.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

S&P Joins 529 Fray

by: Tony Pennino

Standard & Poor's is introducing "A Complete Guide to 529 College Savings Plans", Brian Johnson, senior editor with the firm's financial communications unit, told the MutualFundWire.com. The guide will be offered in both online and paper versions.

The product includes a 16-page 529 plan guide, an interactive plan calcualtor, an online tutorial with voiceovers, articles, and newsletters. These offerings represent the firm's first foray into the 529 space.

Mainly, the materials would be distributed via the financial advisor. They are designed to assist the advisor in explaining a 529 plan to the individual investor. "They are at a pretty basic level because this is such a new arena. It is also written for the advisor as well. In time, we will develop a booklet just for advisors that will be written at a higher level," Johnson reported.

In terms of branding, S&P's clients can choose to use their own branding or S&P's. Johnson also added that the service can be customizeable on the plan level. "If our client wants material generated for a specific state, then we can do that," he contended.

Further, S&P plans to develop additional products for this space including seminars that brokers can give their investors. The firm is also looking at opportunities in the employer-sponsored 529 arena. "We have enrollment kits for retirement plans. The next natural step would be to offer something similar for529 plans," the executive added.

"From an educational standpoint, 529 plans are where 401(k) plans were more than a decade ago -- the market is growing, but the end user, or investor, still needs a great deal of information," stated Sheila Smith, vice president and general manager at Standard & Poor's Financial Communications. "First, they need general information about plan rules and tax benefits, which is where our education guide, calculator, and tutorial can come in. And second, they require specific information on the many plans now available -- a need our custom products fill." 

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