NU Online News Service, Oct. 2, 3:46 p.m. – Total bank annuity sales increased to $4.4 billion in July, up 4.9% from June and up 44% from July 2001, according to a bank annuity market survey by Kenneth Kehrer Associates, Princeton, N.J.

The July survey, which was sponsored by Jackson National Life Insurance Company, Lansing, Mich., found that variable annuities continued to rebound. VA sales increased 11% from June, and they increased 20% from July 2001.

Despite the shaky equity markets, people who invest where they bank are being drawn to new VAs that cut investment risk by using pools of securities similar to those that back mutual funds, according to Brad Powell, president of Jackson National’s institutional marketing group.

Powell adds that insurers are boosting VA sales by introducing VAs with modular designs.

“Products like these seem to be attracting the most assets in this environment because they allow customers to custom build an annuity to meet their particular investment needs,” Powell says.

Bank sales of fixed annuities rose to $3.4 billion, up 3% from the level recorded in June and up 54% from the level recorded in July 2001.

July was the second best month ever for U.S. sales of fixed annuities, Kehrer reports.

Banks took in $3.11 from sales of fixed annuities in July for every dollar they generated from VA sales, but Powell notes that the sales ratio was down from $3.19-to-$1 in June.

Sales of fixed annuities continued to benefit from the fact that they have been paying far more than short-term bank certificates of deposit.

Kenneth Kehrer, head of the Princeton, N.J., consulting firm that conducts the monthly study, says the average base crediting rate on fixed annuities was 4.3% in mid-July, 2.17 percentage points higher than the rate paid on the average one-year CD.

The average fixed annuity with a first-year bonus was paying 3.24 percentage points more than the average one-year CD.

Although the rate gap has shrunk in recent months, it remains high, Kehrer says.