Individual and group annuities accounted for nearly half of defined contribution plan assets, according to a new report.

Conning Research & Consulting, Hartford, Conn., published this finding in a summary of results from a new survey of the retirement income market. The study, “The Big Payout: Growing Individual Retirement Income Opportunities,” explores market opportunities associated with retirement income solutions and analyzes the challenges that insurers face in planning for the growth in the retirement income market.

At the end of 2011, the report states, individual and group annuities held 46% of all defined contribution plan assets. Conning estimates there was an additional $7.3 trillion in combined individual retirement account and defined contribution plan assets.

“Now, insurers have a growing opportunity to help individuals turn those assets into retirement income,” says Scott Hawkins, analyst at Conning Research & Consulting. “Of course, these assets are attracting other competitors, primarily mutual funds that have also helped investors accumulate retirement assets. Insurers need to respond to that competition.”