Looking at some key numbers from two recent studies on bank annuity sales, institutions who aren't in the business might think hard about diving in.

[Expanded Picture]Only 15 commercial banks sold more than $100 million in annuities in 1994, according to the Bank Insurance Market Research Group in Mamaroneck, NY. That's just 0.6% of banks who reported selling annuities--and banks reported selling more in equity mutual funds last year (hardly their forte) than all annuities combined.

A second survey by MarketMetrics of Cambridge, MA, found that the vast majority of annuity sales are concentrated among banks with more than $5 billion in assets--and that the average bank is doing less than $50 million in fixed annuity sales each year and under $10 million in variable annuities.

Asked to rank the importance of various factors in measuring annuities program success, bankers put customer retention and fee income atop the list. And 43% of respondents said they were very satisfied with the customer retention they perceived. But overall satisfaction with annuity programs was split almost by thirds among those who called themselves very satisfied, somewhat satisfied and neutral/not satisfied. MarketMetrics says the survey represents institutions making up some 70% of the total volume of annuities sold through banks and thrifts, all with over $750 million in assets.

The BIMRG survey does hold out a kind of practice-makes-better message: It notes that thrifts, many of which have been selling annuities far longer than banks, are doing, on average, nearly three times banks' dollar volume.

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