After years in the shadows of mutual funds, variable annuities are shaping up as tough contenders for bank customers' investment dollars, a study of 47 banks with active investment sales programs has found.

The banks' sales of the tax-deferred investment contracts totaled $920 million for the 12 month period through February 1994, according to the study by the Bank Insurance Market Research Group, Mamaroneck, N.Y.

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