A well-known mutual fund rating firm will be taking a different approach to grading the group variable annuity contracts found within many retirement plans.

Morningstar Inc., Chicago, says it will start comparing group VA contracts with retirement plan mutual fund menus, rather than with individual annuities, in its investment research software starting in October and in other products starting in early 2008.

Morningstar began grading group variable annuities that are not registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in February 2006. Since then, many large insurers have started providing group VA data, Morningstar says.