A growing number of European financial advisors are using the Internet, but fund companies there are not providing them with online tools and dedicated Web sites to help them serve their clients, according to a new study issued by e-business consulting firm kasina.

With the exception of asset managers operating in the United Kingdom, most of the largest asset managers in Europe are woefully behind the technological curve, the survey found.

Typically, fund companies do not provide European advisors with a dedicated Web site, and the few that do offer nothing significantly different from what is available on the public site, according to the survey.

By and large, most fund European Web sites are designed to appear much like an online brochure, offering little more than information on what the company does and the products it offers, said Alexandre Dussaucy, kasina's director of business development for Western Europe. Less than 20% of European fund companies' Web sites offer a separate log-on site for advisors, and online transaction capabilities are still rare in most European countries, he said.

But fund companies in Europe will need to change their online offerings in order to meet fundamental changes taking place in that region. European fund supermarkets and investment portals are gaining in popularity with financial advisors, according to the survey. These sites allow advisors to access data on a variety of investment products as well as to monitor portfolios and compare performance data. If advisors can go to those sites and access detailed information about a fund company in addition to their clients' accounts, the value of a fund company's Web site is diminished.

Moreover, financial advisors are more connected to the Internet today than ever before, Dussaucy said. "The financial advisor is far more wired to the Internet than the average retail investor," he said. More than 80% of advisors have access to the Internet compared to just 30% of their clients, he said.

Of the advisors surveyed, 89% of independent financial advisors use the Internet regularly followed by 86% of bank advisors, 73% of retail bank advisors and 59% of insurance representatives, according to the survey.

Researching information on fund performance, portfolio holdings and management, reading management commentary and accessing clients accounts were the reasons cited by European advisors for visiting a fund company's Web site.

However, advisors expressed frustration in being able to find fund Web sites that provide personalized content and sales strategies and over 40% of advisors surveyed said it is difficult to find the information they want. Other complaints included the lack of online transactional capabilities and product information and comparative data.

In order to provide an effective Web site, fund companies operating in Europe need to consider a host of factors in the design of the site, the survey said. Fund's advisor sites should take into consideration the specific country in which the advisor works.

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