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Morningstar: VA product changes in 3Q outpace activity from year-ago period

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Product changes that variable annuity providers unveiled during the third quarter was more than double that of the year-ago period, but down from the second quarter, according to new research from Morningstar U.S.A.

The Chicago-based investment research firm pegs the number of VA product changes at 106 in its third quarter report. This is up 165% from the 40 changes introduced in the third quarter of 2011, but down the 168 product changes recorded in the second quarter of this year.

“Activity this quarter was brisk,” the report states. “We are seeing a definite mix of strategies, as many carriers continue to adjust (i.e., reduce benefits levels.)

“At the same time, several new contracts came out with attractive living benefits, so product development continues and carriers are by no means sitting on their hands.”

The third quarter changes by type include new VA contracts (30), closed VA contracts (14), closed VA benefit options (16), fee changes (11) and revisions to new products (10).

By carrier, new contracts and benefits introduced by Lincoln National Corp. outpaced other competitors among the 55 companies surveyed, the report reveals. Jackson National, MetLife Investors, Pacific Life and Prudential Financial occupy the other spots among the top five carriers.

The report goes on to note that VA providers are eliminating add-on payments, also known as subsequent payments or “subpays.”

“This trend bodes well for clients who are fully funded and want to see their guarantees solidified,” the report adds. “For those clients who would like to continue to build their balance via additional investments, this development may push their retirement funds to other contracts, VA carriers or even investment types.”


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