As of May 4, Neuberger Berman Group is again majority-owned by its employees, including portfolio managers and senior executives of the company. The 70-year-old firm’s previous owner, Lehman Brothers Holdings, retains minority ownership of Neuberger Berman, which has about $158 billion in AUM. Lehman Brothers had bought Neuberger Berman in 2003, and at the time of the parent company’s bankruptcy last fall, the asset management firm was widely considered its crown jewel…

Raymond James Financial is implementing Interactive Data Corp’s Market-Q browser-based market data terminal service for use by the 4,000 financial advisors in RJF’s Private Client Group…

Charles Schwab Investment Management announced May 5 that it has made a permanent move to cut expenses, simplify share classes, and lower minimum investment levels to $100 for all of its Schwab equity index funds. “All investors will now pay the same low price for all Schwab funds,” said Peter Crawford, senior VP, investment management services, at a press event in New York. He added that with expense ratios that now run from nine to 29 basis points, the expense reductions on the six equity index funds average more than 50%. Using data from its rivals’ Web sites, Schwab compared its S&P 500 Index Fund (minimum: $100; expense ratio: 9 bps) to Vanguard’s 500 Index Investor Shares (minimum: $3,000; expense ratio: 15 bps) and Fidelity’s Spartan 500 Index Fund Investor Class (minimum: $10,000; expense ratio: 10 bps). Crawford compared the new expense ratios to those for ETFs. Schwab is also simplifying the fees on all of its equity and bond funds…

LIMRA International reported that sales of variable annuities fell 15% in 2008 to $155 billion, compared to 2007′s record $184 billion in sales. In the fourth quarter alone, VA sales dropped 30% to $33.6 billion. However, fixed annuity sales jumped 79% in the fourth quarter of the year and 50% for all of 2008, from $72.8 billion in 2007 to $109.4 billion in 2008. The fixed annuity sales kept overall annuity sales in the black, posting a 3% gain for the year. The fixed annuity type seeing the biggest gain was market value-adjusted products, whose sales grew 135% in 2008, to $18.3 billion. Fixed deferred annuities still accounted for the most sales, showing a 58% jump to $95.1 billion in sales…

Symetra Financial has launched Savings for Schools, an initiative designed to improve retirement planning preparedness for K-12 school teachers and other educators, particularly through use of a new Web site, www.symetra.com/savingsforschools, which gives school districts access to a variety of resources to help guide them through the 403(b) planning process…

Grail Advisors announced that the Grail American Beacon Large Cap Value exchange traded fund (ticker: GVT) began trading May 4 on the New York Stock Exchange. Grail Advisors said GVT is the industry’s first ETF to use traditional active management…

AdviceAmerica announced a new release of its AdvisorVision financial planning software, which integrates financial planning, portfolio construction, and client relationship management (called ClientVision) in one software platform. AdvisorVision 7 includes a new advice engine that the company says automatically determines optimal plans and significantly shortens the time advisors–both institutional and independent–spend in the planning process compared to other comprehensive planning applications…

Broadridge Financial Solutions announced that Firstrade is the first broker/dealer to integrate its brokerage Web site with The Investor Network (www.theinvestornetwork.com), an online community dedicated to serving validated investors. An integral component of The Investor Network, Broadridge says, is the Shareholder Forum, which provides a mechanism for publicly held companies to have structured, controlled communication with their shareholders on a regular basis. Broadridge recently announced that Intel Corp. will be the first public company to host a Shareholder Forum on The Investor Network.