Aetna Inc. on Thursday introduced an annuity that offers customers a way to stagger a single investment over as many as six maturity terms.

The Aetna Multi-Rate Annuity offers guaranteed fixed rates for terms of three, five, six, seven, eight, and 10 years. The minimum investment of $10,000 may be sliced up to mature in different years. The smallest allocation allowed to each choice of rate is $1,000.

The product was designed for investors who may feel constrained by a simple fixed-rate annuity, but do not want to risk principal by investing in a variable annuity, an Aetna executive said.

"This is essentially a product that sits between the fixed and variable annuity on the investment spectrum," said Robert K. O'Mara, national director for bank sales and marketing at Aetna Retirement Services, Hartford, Conn.

Aetna also announced last week that its retirement services subsidiary signed up Guaranty Federal Bank, a $9 billion-asset thrift in Dallas, to offer its Preferred Plus Fixed Annuity.

Guaranty has 136 locations in Texas and California. An affiliated insurance agency, Timberline Associates Inc., sells annuities to its customers. Mr. O'Mara said Aetna has approximately 50 such selling agreements with financial institutions and reaches at least 100 more banks through a distribution agreement with Invest Financial Corp.

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