Allianz AG, the Munich-based insurance company, is gearing up to launch five mutual funds and five variable annuities in the United States at the beginning of the year.

The USAllianz Funds, to be managed by Westport, Conn.-based Allianz of America Inc., will comprise growth, global opportunity, diversified, fixed-income, and money market portfolios. The variable annuities will consist of matching portfolios.

Allianz of America, the North American arm of Allianz's asset management division, has $20.1 billion under management.

Beginning early next year, Allianz will sell the funds and annuities through its Minneapolis-based subsidiary, Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America. In the second quarter Allianz will expand distribution to all its North American subsidiaries and to the broker-dealers and financial advisers that have relationships with Allianz, said Jennifer Ryan, director of mutual funds for the USAllianz Funds.

Bisys Fund Services of Little Falls, N.J., will distribute the funds.

"Allianz of America has specialized for years in managing insurance assets," Ms. Ryan said. The USAllianz Funds offer an opportunity to expand the company's asset management capabilities in the United States while leveraging its established distribution network, she said.

Part of the goal is "to get the Allianz name out," said Ms. Ryan, who joined Allianz three weeks ago from KeyCorp, where she managed the product development group for the Cleveland banking company's Victory Funds.

The German insurer took a large step into the U.S. asset management market on Oct. 31 when it agreed to buy Pimco Advisors Holdings LP, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based bond fund specialist.

"The States is really the last opportunity for the big (European) insurance companies to expand their business," said Richard A. Urwick, an analyst at Schroder Securities in London.

In Europe, he said, insurance companies have lost market share to banks, which dominate the mutual fund and annuity areas. "Strategically, it's much easier to enter the market in the U.S. rather than try to expand in Europe," he said.

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