From the May 2010 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Retirement Planning: ING Back Into Retirement

Merges units, rolls out new VA, names CEO

ING Financial Solutions, that unit of ING's U.S. operations formed by the merger of the Dutch-based company's U.S. annuity and rollover businesses in 2009, has introduced ING Select Opportunities Variable Annuity, the fourth retirement "solution" recently rolled out by the newly formed unit. The new, lower-cost VA was designed, in the words of Bill Lowe, president of distribution for ING Financial Solutions and speaking in New York on March 24, as part of "a multi-product focus," that includes a fixed annuity, an index annuity, a multimanager mutual fund-based IRA program, and the new VA, where "simplification is the key."

While the term "solutions" is often overused, Lynne Ford, recently named CEO of the unit, said in that same interview that "after a turbulent 2009," the company's goal was to "simplify and make more transparent" all its retirement income products, and rather than continue to participate in a VA "arms race," that ING had told its sales force to be "solutions-oriented," taking into account the entire risk spectrum of clients. Seeking to dispel any notions to the contrary, Ford said "we're definitely in the business; there's no uncertainty about that," and that part of being in that business was, first, to offer "simplicity, and driving down the costs." Realizing, said Lowe, that "the entire VA industry has been going to the same advisor" to sell VAs, ING now saw the second part of its mandate as reaching out to advisors who had balked at annuities in the past, when they were, Lowe admitted, "too complicated and too expensive," to educate those advisors about how to diversify their retirement income planning on behalf of clients.

The desire for a guaranteed product, said Ford, was part of a transition from the traditional three-legged stool of retirement income, to "carving out the third leg from your own pot of money--that's the siren cry that's just going to get louder."

ING Select Opportunities Variable Annuity has one death benefit and a minimum guaranteed withdrawal benefit, at a price, said Lowe "of 225 bps all in." Lowe also said that ING would be introducing a new allocation product this spring.

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