Banc One Corp. and UJB Financial Corp. have become the latest entrants in the race to launch families of annuities.
Both banking companies confirmed this week that they intend to unveil proprietary versions of the tax-exempt investment products within the next six months. They join nearly a dozen banks that have announced similar plans.
Banc One, of Columbus, Ohio, will be first out of the box with a roll-out of its One Investor annuities slated for September. UJB Financial, of Hackensack, N.J., expects to follow suit in January.
In an uncommon twist, Banc One has decided to split investment management duties with Fidelity Investments, the Boston-based mutual fund titan. Banc One believes the "marquee name" of Fidelity will give its annuities a marketing edge, said Glen Milesko, president of Banc One Insurance Group, Milwaukee.
Banc One's annuity will offer six variable-yield portfolios, each with a distinct objective. Three of the portfolios will be managed by Banc One, two will be managed by Fidelity, and one, an asset allocation portfolio, will be jointly managed.
A seventh portfolio, offering a fixed yield, will also be available. It will be managed by Nationwide Insurance, Columbus, Ohio, which will also underwrite the annuities' insurance contracts.
Will Be Linked to Pillar Proprietary Funds
UJB Financial, meanwhile, will introduce a family of annuities linked to its proprietary Pillar Funds, said Lou Daniels, a senior vice president who manages the banking company's investment services group.
The company has selected SunAmerica Corp., Los Angeles, to underwrite the annuity contracts, Mr. Daniels said. SunAmerica is also underwriting annuities for Chase Manhattan Corp. and First Interstate Bancorp.
Initially, the Pillar annuities will include four portfolios: two that invest in stocks, one that invests in bonds, and one that invests in money market instruments.
Florida financial institutions that sell annuities got some relief last week from a state appeals court.
The First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee blocked state insurance regulators from carrying out a threat to revoke the licenses of insurance agents who sell insurance products in branches.
The court's action was sought by several investment products marketing firms, led by GNA Corp. The Seattle-based company runs investment sales programs in about 20 community banks in Florida.
In granting GNA's motion, the court said the insurance department may not enforce a proposed rule placing an outright ban on bank insurance activities until that rule is evaluated on its merits. The insurance department's petition to enforce the ban, which names GNA and several other marketing firms as respondents, is pending before the court.
Bankers and investment marketing executives hailed the court's interim step. "We believed the department was wrong, and the court's move affirms it," said Ross Hansen, general counsel at James Mitchell & Co., an investment marketer that operates an annuity sales program for Barnett Banks Inc.