The Canada Life Assurance Company is taking an electronic approach to educating its clients about retirement savings.

In a twist on the e-learning concept, the Toronto-based company Wednesday released a CD-ROM called Smart

Investing, which will be distributed to its clients’ employees through the companies they work for. The CD-ROM is now available to the over 700,000 members of group savings plans supported by Canada Life and Canada Life Securities Inc.

George Haim, manager of investments and pensions marketing at Canada Life, said that the idea for the software tool came out of the basic need for clients to be educated on investments and various plans’ features. Rather than bombard them with paper-based information, the insurer opted to compact the data onto one disk that can be accessed as required by its users.

“”There’s a series of 58 articles about investing, estate planning, taxes and retirement — it runs the whole gamut, because our research has told us that our members don’t all know about investing,”” he said. “”We also know that it’s not likely that people are going to pick up a book on investing and read from page one to 200 in one sitting. This is interactive e-learning.””

According to Haim, this is the first step to getting this kind of interactive information up on the Web.

The software allows for users to choose a level that they are comfortable with, from basic to advanced, and offers calculation tools with varying levels of functionality. The reason for this, Haim explained, is that they recognize that there are two kinds of customers: those who want to figure things out for themselves and investigate various scenarios, and those who want quick answers.

Because the software is to be distributed to many different organizations with many different plans, it is customizable in its design, despite the fact that every company gets the identical disk. Each individual client is assigned an access code that its employees enter upon starting the program. This code launches a downloader that is built into the CD, and accesses the customized information from the Canada Life Web site.

Other information including updates about funds and plans can be updated using the CD as well.

Robert Brunet, president of multimedia developer and Canada Life’s technology partner on the project, Click Media Inc. in King City, Ont., said that this kind of functionality makes the CD what he called a hybrid solution.

“”This tool is a very involved combination of a CD-ROM and all of the software, interface and content that comes with it and the very robust and flexible ability to update information via the Web.””

According to Brunet, the tool w

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