Almost ten years ago Vanguard's IT team looked at then-emerging multimedia and content \n\nsharing tools on the Web and saw a future goldmine for customers. \n Complete CIO 100 Coverage 100 Innovative Projects Why the 2008 CIO 100 Winners Are Focused on Operations and Controlling Costs How Goodwin Procter Uses SharePoint Vanguard's Multimedia Tools Marriott's Underground Disaster Recovery Facility Virtualization at Schwan Food CPS Energy's Smartphones How We Chose the CIO 100 \nThe mutual fund company, which holds $1.3 trillion in assets, considers a key part of its value proposition to be educational materials that help customers make better investment \n\nchoices. Multimedia offered yet another way to keep customers interested in and educated \n\nabout the financial markets. Meanwhile, pushing content to subscribers' Web browsers could \n\nmake Vanguard's content easier to access. \n\nBy 2006, online multimedia from iTunes to YouTube had exploded in popularity, RSS feeds \n\nfor subscribing to Web content were proliferating and Vanguard plunged in. The company not \n\nonly revamped its website, enabling customers to personalize their experience online, but \n\nalso deployed a platform for delivering multimedia content. To date, Vanguard has posted \n\n73 podcasts and 40 videos. For its efforts, Vanguard is honored with a 2008 CIO 100 Award.\n\nIt was an uncommon step for a financial services company, says CIO Paul Heller. He thinks \n\nthat the materials, which have been downloaded by investors nearly 1 million times, have \n\nhelped both the company and its customers weather the current economic downturn. Vanguard \n\nclaims it led the mutual fund industry in cash flow in 2007 with more than $100 billion in \n\nnew investments into its funds and its mutual fund redemption ratio (a measure showing how \n\nmany dollars leave Vanguard) at an all-time record low. "I'm convinced that the positive \n\npart of this recession is that the technology can still enable people to invest," Heller \n\nsays, and make them more successful by giving them information.\nPaul Heller, CIO, Vanguard Photo By Steven Vote\nCreating Wealth with Multimedia\n\nVanguard's 5 million customers are a tech-savvy bunch; most clients do their transactions \n\nonline and have for years. "We were a virtual company before it was cool to be a virtual \n\ncompany," Heller says. \n\nBut investors weren't as enamored of the text-based information Vanguard had on its \n\nwebsite. Heller and his team planned to give the customers what they wanted, where they \n\nwanted it. With the majority of Vanguard's interactions with clients occurring via \n\nVanguard.com, Heller pays close attention to how consumers use the Web. "The trend \n\ntowards Web 2.0 seemed obvious," he says of new technologies for sharing information and applications online.\n\nVanguard's own research showed that consumers were beginning to use multimedia formats to \n\naccess information. Heller says multimedia helps investors learn by making it easier for \n\nthem to access information. The new technologies make investment information portable, so \n\ninvestors don't have to sit at their computers to get it. "We never would have guessed it \n\nwhen we started, but we are in the top ten list of podcasts on iTunes," Heller says.\n \nRisk of the New\n\nHeller and his team used Adobe Flash for interactive content and video, and the MP3 format \n\nfor podcasts\u2014pretty standard stuff, to make dowloading easy for customers.. The files are \n\nhosted within Vanguard's data centers and through third-party hosting providers. Videos \n\nmade for viewing by Vanguard employees use multicast protocols, whereas content for \n\nclients uses a combination of progressive download and unicast streaming.\n\nYet the investment wasn't a sure bet. "There was just an initial resistance \n\n[among Vanguard executives] that we were going to throw the party and have no one show \n\nup," Heller says. However, according to Heller, because multimedia is one of the best ways \n\nto put a face on Vanguard, the IT team decided the move was worth the risk. \n\nThe IT department piloted several different types of tools for creating multimedia, \n\nchoosing those that would improve the user experience without requiring customers to \n\ndownload software. Vanguard selected the Adobe Flash player, because it is a "de-facto \n\nstandard," he says. Both RealNetworks and Windows Media Media Player offered strong \n\nalternatives, but users would need to install a player.\n\nHeller says that when it comes to multimedia on the Web, Vanguard won't move to the \n\nbleeding edge, but he does want to stay ahead of his industry competitors. To do so, he \n\nintends to repurpose what companies such as Amazon.com, Netflix and the New York Times do \n\nto develop new ways of delivering information. "They are on the forefront of what's \n\nhappening with the web," he says, "and it's so exciting."