NU Online News Service, June 4, 2:10 p.m. – American Skandia Life Assurance Corp., Shelton, Conn., is trying to lure risk-averse customers back to variable annuities by offering a Guaranteed Return Option program.

American Skandia is selling the option to holders of existing VA contracts and purchasers of new contracts.

When customers join the program, money managers will try to adjust the participants?f asset allocations to guarantee return of the full value of the starting principal amount at the end of seven years.

Managers will put more of the assets in fixed funds when the market seems to be doing badly, and shift more back into variable funds when the market seems to be doing better, American Skandia says.

When assets gain in value, a customer can lock in the gains by paying to exercise a “step-up option” on the contract anniversary date.

The step-up option increases the guaranteed asset value to the value of the contract assets on the anniversary date, American Skandia says.

Customers can end partipation in the guaranteed return program at any time, and restart participation on the next contract anniversary, American Skandia says.