Morningstar has launched Annuity Intelligence, a web-based research and evaluation tool for advisors and broker-dealers charged with finding the best variable annuity products for their clients.

The site provides real-time data on more than 100,000 annuity subaccounts and 1,950 annuity contracts and features new user interface with simplified navigation, enhanced search functions, and new research features and functionality.

Morningstar officials said Annuity Intelligence combines the best features of two popular tools, Morningstar Annuity Analyzer and the Annuity Intelligence Report, to create an all-in-one source for annuity data and information. Users will now have improved capabilities to search for variable annuity contracts, compare them side-by-side, and then generate client-friendly, FINRA-reviewed presentations and reports.

“When it comes to purchasing an annuity, every investor has specific, personalized needs, but it can be difficult to compare annuities in a meaningful way,” Kevin Loffredi, vice president of insurance solutions for Morningstar, said in a statement. "By combining our two most popular annuity tools into one solution, we've made it easier for financial professionals to make apples-to-apples comparisons between different annuity products and help find the most appropriate annuity for each client."

Morningstar Annuity Intelligence also includes a new lifetime income calculator, which allows an advisor to see the amount of guaranteed income an annuity benefit will provide for a client based on different criteria. It includes plain English descriptions of complex provisions in annuity riders, annuity fee data, contract titling information, and historical contract data dating back to the 1960s. In addition, it helps compliance officers support their suitability and review process for an annuity purchase, and it enables suitability forms to be automatically populated with contract, benefit, and fee information to streamline the transaction process.

In addition, Morningstar now offers two add-on capabilities, VA Expense Analyzer and VA Hypothetical Illustrator, which are designed to help provide transparency to advisors and their investor clients. VA Expense Analyzer helps streamline the compliance and sales disclosure process by conducting suitability and cost analyses to help make sure a recommended annuity is appropriate for a client. It also calculates how long it would take for a client to recover a surrender charge in the event he or she exchanges an annuity contract. VA Hypothetical Illustrator helps support client proposals by analyzing variable annuity performance as a stand-alone investment, in comparison with competing products or benchmarks, or within the context of a complete portfolio.

Morningstar said its current Annuity Analyzer and Annuity Intelligence Report clients will be migrated to the new Morningstar Annuity Intelligence solution over the next 12 to 18 months, based on each client's individual requirements.

Morningstar Annuity Intelligence is available on a site-license basis to broker-dealers, institutions and other financial firms. Morningstar Annuity Intelligence subscribers who also use Morningstar Advisor Workstation will be able to link to the new solution directly through Advisor Workstation later this year.

Larry Barrett writes for Financial Planning.