Offering a much-needed solution to traditional variable annuities that levy high fees, Ameritas Direct has launched a no-load variable annuity that boasts no commission, sales charge, withdrawal charge, or policy fee. The Genesis No-Load Variable Annuity, issued by Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. and distributed through Ameritas Direct, boasts unlimited online trading, the latest possible cutoff time (3:45 EST), and free online transfers. Ameritas says the annuity will give cost-conscious advisors and consumers more control and the ability to perform short-term trading within a tax-deferred vehicle. Mortality and expense charges are a competitive 0.90%, Ameritas notes, while investment options carry their own expenses. Genesis Partners, Inc., an asset and financial market research firm, helped Ameritas Direct and ProFund Advisors design the VA; Genesis Partners will be promoting the product via its advisor relationships. Investment options available through the VA include 22 ProFunds subaccount portfolios. Ameritas Direct recently added two new investment options, ProFunds Dow 30 and ProFunds Short Dow 30. Ameritas has also raised the maximum premium (without prior approval) on the Genesis No-Load Variable Annuity from $1 million to $5 million for all new accounts.

Lord, Abbett & Co. recently introduced The Streamlined 401(k) plan to help business owners and employees more easily diversify their investment selections by using Lord Abbett’s five strategic asset allocation lifestyle funds. The Streamlined 401(k) plan is being incorporated into the firm’s popular Lord Abbett Safe Harbor 401(k) and Lord Abbett Owner-Only 401(k) plans, the company says. The option will complement the existing “Choice” and “Choice Plus” options already available in the Lord Abbett Safe Harbor 401(k) plan, and accompany the “Choice” option in the Lord Abbett Owner-Only 401(k) plan. The firm also offers two other retirement plans: Lord Abbett Traditional 401(k) and Lord Abbett SIMPLE IRA. “This product responds to what our clients have been asking for: an affordable plan that is easy to understand, set up, and administer,” said Robert Noelke, partner and director of national sales at Lord Abbett, in announcing The Streamlined 401(k). The plan “eliminates a lot of the barriers that keep advisors from recommending a 401(k) plan and keep small-business owners from starting a plan.”

Principal Bank, a member of The Principal Financial Group, recently unveiled a new Roth option for its Principal Bank Safe Harbor IRA, which allows plan sponsors to roll over small-balance Roth 401(k) and 403(b) accounts into a Roth IRA. Principal expects the Roth option to be popular among plan sponsors since the Pension Protection Act of 2006 makes the Roth savings option permanent. Barrie Christman, president and CEO of Principal Bank, says the Roth IRA option will do for the new employer-sponsored Roth investment accounts what the Principal Bank Safe Harbor IRA is doing for traditional qualified investment accounts: “allow plan sponsors to reduce plan administration costs by removing costly low-balance accounts from their plans.” At the same time, Christman says “this option will help employees continue to save for retirement by preserving the tax-advantaged status of their funds.”

Nationwide Financial Services announced in late August that Duane C. Meek, senior vice president for Retirement Plans, will retire. Bill Jackson, currently VP for internal sales and service will replace Meek beginning October 1.