Sales of fixed indexed annuities hit $16.2 billion in the second quarter of 2016, a 30 percent increase over the same period last year and an all-time quarterly record, according to LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute.
For the first half to 2016, Fixed indexed annuity sales were $31.9 billion, a 32 percent increase of the first half of 2015. LIMRA is projecting fisales to exceed $60 billion for 2016.
If that holds true, it will mark the eighth consecutive year of strong growth in fixed indexed annuity sales.
Todd Giesing, assistant research director for LIMRA’s Secure Retirement Institute, said low interest rates have continued to benefit fixed index annuities as consumers seek “safe yield.”
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“The indexed market is extremely competitive at this time as indexed products remain an attractive alternative to variable annuity products,” said Giesing.
As fixed indexed annuity sales have surged for most of the past decade, variable annuities have taken a hit.
Sales of variable products were down 25 percent in the second quarter of 2016, totaling $26.9 billion. For the first half of 2016, variable product sales were $53.5 billion, the worst performing first half of the year since 1998, and the first time sales of variable annuities have been below $30 billion for consecutive quarters since 2002, according to LIMRA.
Sales of FIAs expected to slow
The U.S. Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule is scheduled to have a two-tier phase in period.
Beginning April 10, 2017, all advisors to IRAs and defined contribution plans with less than $50 million in assets will be required to act as fiduciaries.
Full compliance with the rule will be phased in Jan. 1, 2018, when advisors recommending fixed indexed and variable annuities will have to comply with the rule’s Best Interest Contract Exemption, a legally binding contract between broker-dealers, insurance companies, advisory firms and investors that guarantees advisors are serving clients’ best interests when they recommend both fixed indexed and variable annuities.
Complying with the Best Interest Contract Exemption is expected to slow the surging sales of fixed indexed annuities. LIMRA is projecting a 30 to 35 percent decline in fixed indexed annuity sales in 2017, which would lower sales to 2013 levels, or around $40 billion.
In 2015, about two thirds of fixed indexed annuity sales were through IRAs or rollovers from defined contribution accounts. Once the Labor Department rule is fully implemented, advisors will have to operate under the Best Interest Contract Exemption when recommending fixed indexed annuities and variable annuities, to assure recommendations of the products are in retirement investors’ best interests.
The “challenges” of complying with the Best Interest Contract Exemption will be the main source negatively impacting sales of fixed indexed annuities in 2017, said Giesing in a release.
Until recently, fixed indexed annuities have been exclusively sold on a commission basis.
That changed in December 2015, when Midland National began offering Prosper 5, which at the time was the only fee-based indexed annuity. The insurer is exclusively distributing Prosper 5 through broker-dealer Raymond James, according to information provided by Wink Inc., a third-party market research firm specializing in annuity and life insurance markets.
Last week, Great American Life announced a new fee-based fixed indexed annuity, the Index Protector 7, which the insurer said will be distributed through registered investment advisors who, as fiduciaries, already operate off of fee-based compensation models.
While the Labor Department rule does not ban the sale of commission-based investment, the preponderance of industry analysis has said the rule’s design strongly favors fee-based compensation models.