Edvest boosts visibility

One year after TIAA-CREF took over management of the Wisconsin 529 College Savings Program, Edvest has updated its image.

A talking apple mascot now explains the benefits of the college savings accounts on the Edvest website and will build awareness through a TV advertising campaign set to hit the airwaves in early November, said James DiUlio, director of the program.

In addition, Edvest has improved its website, changed its logo and increased e-delivery of statements from 4.5 percent to 22 percent of account holders.

“We kind of got into the 21st Century here with Facebook and Twitter,” DiUlio said. “We’ve seen this just huge change in electronic (transactions) within the last two years.”

Last October, $3 billion in college savings funds were moved from Wells Fargo to TIAA-CREF when Wells Fargo decided not to renew its contract with Edvest. The new contract is in effect for five years.

“TIAA has college savings plans in 10 other states, so they have the experience and they’ve done these kind of transitions before,” he said.

The technological improvements are a way to target young parents, as well as grandparents, who want to contribute to a 529 account, which grows tax free when used for higher education, DiUlio said.

Edvest’s ramped up outreach efforts have included appearances at festivals and art fairs across the state this fall and a partnership with the Green Bay Packers to promote reading to kids.

“It’s been very successful for us,” DiUlio said. “It creates awareness throughout the year, rather than at the end of the year with tax planning. Parents just need to kind of talk about things and we can answer questions.”

There are currently about 124,000 Edvest accounts totaling $1.7 billion, a 2 to 3 percent increase from 2012, he said.

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