Brokers and other investment professionals accounted for 57% of U.S. variable annuity sales in 2004, up from 52% in 2003.[@@]

Researchers at Integras, a unit of Claritas Inc., San Diego, have published those figures in a study based on 175,000 consumer survey interviews.

The percentage of consumers who bought variable annuities directly through insurers fell to 25%, from 30%, while the bank share of the market held steady at 15%, the Integras researchers report.

The researchers found that age, wealth and small business ownership had noticeable effects on annuity channel preferences.

For instance, the mean age was 59 for consumers buying variable annuities through insurers, 60.5 for consumers buying through brokers and 65 for consumers buying through banks.

The annuity holders with the highest levels of income-producing assets were the most likely to buy through brokers, while those with lower average IPA levels were more likely to buy through banks, the Integras researchers write.

The IPA figure includes liquid household assets such as securities, mutual funds, retirement accounts, checking accounts, savings accounts and bank certificates of deposit.

The average IPA of those purchasing VAs through brokers was $416,000, compared with $363,000 for those buying through the insurance company channel and $328,000 for those buying through banks, the Integras researchers report.