April 2014: Variable Annuities Product Positioning

This Annuity Monitor Report examines how variable annuity products are positioned exclusively on the public websites of firms in our coverage group. The report mainly focuses on how variable annuity product information is accessed, how it is presented and what type of information is provided on the public sites. Additionally, firms providing resources pertaining to variable annuities, such as literature, marketing materials, prospectuses and fund performances, were taken into account during our assessment. As we investigated the variable annuity products on the public sites of Annuity Monitor firms, we focused on the following:

  • Accessibility
  • Presentation
  • Quality and Quantity of Content

Based on our examination, firms did an adequate job of positioning their variable annuity products on their public sites. Three firms received grades in the A-range, as they provide exceptional product details and VA resources within the Annuities section. Over half of the firms in our coverage group received grades within the B-scale, due partly to the VA product details offered on either product pages and/or product brochures, with some even offering educational resources. Lastly, three remaining firms received a grade of C+ or lower, as they did not meet most of the criteria.

 

We found that most firms in this report (73%) provide product pages for their variable annuity products, though only 60% of them include product information directly on the page. There are other firms that rely on product materials, such as product brochures and prospectuses, to deliver information. We also found that firms present product details differently, with four firms organizing product details within intra-page tabs on the product pages.

 

All firms offer fund information, either in the form of fund reports and/or interactive fund centers. Currently, nine
Annuity Monitor firms provide fund centers that allow users to view up-to-date prices and performance for VA investment options. Some firms even offer advanced capabilities where users can create interactive graphs and reports that compare the average annual returns, monthly/quarterly performance, unit values, estimated expense charges, star ratings, holdings and more for several funds.

Lastly, the report mentions firms offering variable annuity educational content or resources. There are four firms that offer valuable tools/calculators related to variable annuities on their public websites. Additionally, four firms offer product-focused microsites that house educational content and multimedia videos.

 


Additional key findings include:

  • Eighty percent of firms offer fund reports for their respective variable annuity products.
  • Seven firms include variable annuity fee information directly on the product pages.
  • A majority of the firms (80%) offer product brochures for their variable annuities.
  • Three firms provide comparison charts that set variable annuity products’ features, benefits and fees side-by-side.