A new survey from The Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) and Cerulli Associates finds the overall outlook for the annuity industry is positive, as retirement income and principal protection rate highly among industry executives and advisors. While some challenges remain, respondents rated growth for variable annuities a 4.1 on a 5-point scale, and gave fixed annuities a rank of 3.2 on the same scale.

With the increased spotlight placed on the exclusive retirement income security provided by annuities, it’s no surprise positive expansion is coming,” said Insured Retirement Institute President and CEO Cathy Weatherford in a prepared statement. “The findings of the survey clearly underscore this potential, and foretell future innovations and advancements in living benefit offerings. While insurers work to further develop simplified offerings, both broker/dealers and advisors consider living benefits to be a key factor in selecting a product. Robust living benefit guarantees help balance out possible market volatility with a level of protection, offering consumers peace of mind as they continue to reenter the market. The coming year will undoubtedly bring about important advancements throughout the industry.”

The survey also found that:

? A hot topic within the variable annuity industry is the development of simplified products; nearly two-thirds of insurers surveyed indicated that they either offer simplified annuities, or plan to do so in the coming 12-18 months.

? Demographic need has tremendous potential to drive VA sales, given the need for guaranteed lifetime income and principal protection that can only be provided by an annuity.

? The financial strength rating and living benefits rank top in importance of factors in broker/dealer selection of a VA provider, with both earning a 4.6 on a 5-point scale.

? Living benefits and the financial strength rating are also highly valued by advisors when selecting a VA provider, with 72% considering living benefits and 80% looking at ratings.

? There has been an increase in the consideration of annuities for wealth transfer purposes, particularly to provide retirement income to heirs, while also providing a degree of spendthrift protection.