Three variable annuities underwriters tied for overall excellence in Dalbar's latest survey of 2,200 annuity brokerages.

Hartford Life Insurance Co., American Skandia Life Assurance, and Pacific Life share the top spot.

American Skandia also ranked first or second in various additional categories, said Lauren Himml, director of market research for Boston-based Dalbar.

"That really is impressive and unusual-to be able to dominate the marketplace in the opinion of top producers," Ms. Himml said.

Three companies also tied last year, but only one of them got top marks again in 1998: Pacific Life. The others of the trio were Pioneer and Security Benefit Group.

Dalbar added variable annuities to its broker-dealer rankings in 1995. Any firm receiving a significant score on the basis of broker-dealer surveys is considered, Ms. Himml said. The average survey scores determine rankings, she said.

"We don't discriminate based on size, because we think if someone is out there shopping (for annuities) they have all these people to choose from," Ms. Himml said.

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