Charles Schwab & Co. plans to launch a proprietary variable annuity giving more investment options and better account access to retail customers.

Jeffrey G. Benton, the Schwab vice president in charge of annuities and life insurance, said Great West Life and Annuity Insurance Co. will underwrite the new annuity.

The San Francisco-based brokerage already has a proprietary variable annuity, underwritten by Transamerica Life Insurance Co.

But Mr. Benton said the new product, which he hopes to launch by Labor Day, will have "a significantly broader selection" of mutual funds, "perhaps as much as double what we have now."

The new annuity will also give customers access to account information on home computers and automated telephone systems - "technology that people have come to expect from Schwab" but which Transamerica could not make available for the existing product, he said.

Mr. Benton would not disclose the investment options on the new variable annuity until the product is approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A recent SEC filing said the brokerage plans to create two variable annuity stock funds that copy its popular Schwab Asset Director High Growth Portfolio and S&P 500 Portfolio.

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