The booming market for annuities fueled record sales by Independent Financial Marketing Group in 1994, the company announced.

The White Plains, N.Y.-based firm, which markets investment products through 110 bank clients, said its sales totaled $1.1 billion, up 76% from the previous year.

Annuities accounted for 80% of sales, according to the company's chairman, Denis Kaplan. Fixed annuities led the way, accounting for 58% of total volume. Variable annuities followed, at 23%, while mutual funds made up 16% of sales.

Mr. Kaplan said the record sales owed much to rising interest rates, which beat down on mutual funds and sent customers running to the security of annuities and certificates of deposit.

"Last year was the year of annuities," Mr. Kaplan said.

The five-year-old company also announced the addition of 21 banks to its client roster, and said it may be about to sign on "several of the nation's largest banks." Independent Financial's current clients include include Cleveland-based Keycorp and Fidelity Federal Bank, Glendale, Calif.

Independent Financial has nine marketing directors who work directly with banks. "We've very much a hands-on company," said Rod J. Halvorson, the company's president.

Industry observers agree. "This 'high-touch' method of managing the sales force is working well for them," said Richard A. Ayotte, head of American Brokerage Consultants, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Mr. Kaplan said Independent Financial is doing more than adding clients - it's expanding products and services. The company recently launched life insurance and 401(k) plan programs. and expects the changes to boost sales to $1.5 billion this year, Mr. Kaplan said.

To help the life insurance launch, Independent Financial entered a joint venture with Philadelphia Financial Group, an administration services specialist. For the 401(k) plan launch, it tapped Mid-Atlantic Pension Group, in Richmond, Va., to handle administration.

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