With more advisers selling its products, Jackson National Life Insurance Co. turn in a strong first half in sales of its investment and insurance products.

The Lansing, Mich., company, which sells through financial institutions, said retail sales and deposits rose 3% in the six months, to $6.1 billion, from a year earlier, including a record $3.4 billion in the second quarter.

"What we are finding is that people who never sold variable annuities and fixed annuities are coming to us looking to learn more about the products," Clifford Jack, Jackson National's executive vice president and chief distribution officer, said in an interview last week. "We have had a larger number of opportunities than we had last year."

Through June 30, Jackson National have 12,000 new advisers selling its products, versus 16,000 for all of last year. "We are running at a pace to have 24,000 new producers this year, and that is significant," Jack said. "We only see things increasing from here."

The company, a unit of Prudential PLC of London, has also added a number of new distribution relationships this year, Jack said. "I would be shocked if we didn't see a material increase in overall producers from new relationships," he said. "We are going to continue to develop relationships and increase sales this year."

Though it does not break out sales by channel, Jack said Jackson National's sales growth through banks has been brisk.

Unlike other channels, including wire houses and regional broker-dealers, banking companies typically use a shorter list of product providers, Jack said.

"We are seeing that banks are needing to re-evaluate their suite of providers quickly," he said. "Some of the providers that had a strong foothold in the bank marketplace have been hit hard by market circumstances, and banks are looking to add established providers. … This has really magnified that flight to quality."

Jackson National has tried to be "very selective" about the number and types of companies it partners with, Jack said. "Certain banks are appealing, some are not appealing — and the same is true in other channels," he said.

The company wants to develop relationships with large and small banking companies, he said, but it "doesn't want to be just a vendor to anybody."

"We don't want to be a number to anybody," he said. "We want to develop deep and long-lasting relationships with companies where we can generate strong sales."

There have been "huge changes" in the past year at the top-selling annuity providers, including American International Group Inc. and Lincoln National Corp., and there has been "significant turnover at the top" for those firms, Jack said. That has created opportunities for Jackson National to hire, he said.

"There were a lot of challenges for a lot of companies coming out of last year," he said. "If you had to raise capital, that has led to significant decisions that are very different than would have been made if the market hadn't done what it has done."

Jackson National plans to continue to add wholesalers this year, but it has not determined how many or in which channels. It has 350 wholesalers, split evenly between external and internal distribution channels.

"A lot depends on what the market dictates and how many new relationship that we add," Jack said.

Industrywide, variable annuity sales fell 24% in the second quarter, to $31.9 billion, according to Limra International.

Three bailed-out companies — ING Group NV, American International Group and Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. — posted declines of more than 50%. MetLife Inc. sales rose 27% to $4.5 billion, and the firm earned the top spot in the rankings.

Jackson's variable annuity sales rose 8.6% in the first half, to $3.8 billion, compared with the first half of 2008. First-half sales of fixed annuities rose 18.8%, to $1.9 billion. According to Morningstar Inc., Jackson ranked eighth in new variable annuity sales during the first quarter, with a market share of 5%, up from 12th and a market share of 4.4% in the first quarter of 2008.

Sales have been robust this year at companies that were able to maintain pricing stability in 2008, Jack said.

"We have remained conservative from a product pricing standpoint," he said. "Frankly, little has changed in our product lineup because of the meltdown, and that is rare right now."

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