Vanilla as they may be, annuities still represent the lifeblood of many investors' portfolios because they deliver a steady, predictable income throughout retirement.
But Western & Southern Financial Group's new variable annuity, Varoom -- short for Variable Annuity Roll Over Only Money -- is making things a bit more exciting for investors and financial advisors by allowing them to select individual exchange-traded funds (ETFs) as subaccount options.
Varoom, which debuted in January, is issued by Integrity Life Insurance and National Integrity Life Insurance Company and distributed by Touchstone Securities. And so far it's been a big hit with banks, insurance companies, broker-dealers and independent financial advisors.
"Most of the time, when you introduce a new product, you win some and you lose some," said Mark Caner, president of W&S Financial Group Distributors, adding that at least 50 firms have added it to their product mix in the past six weeks. "This one has been so well received by everyone, including firms that haven't offered any of our variable annuities before."
Varoom's early success, according to Caner, can be chalked up to its price -- 60 basis points annual compared to anywhere from 85 to 110 basis points for most other living benefit products -- and the surging popularity of ETFs.
"During the two years we took to develop this product, our focus was on creating something that would differentiate us from the competition and create better customer value," he said. "We're the first one to offer access to individual ETFs. Before the only way investors could do it was from fund to fund and it was too expensive.
VAROOM is available only for rollover funds from IRAs, 401ks -- a $365 billion market -- and some in-service withdrawals. It offers 18 individual ETFs and a money market portfolio from iShares and Vanguard.
The minimum contribution is $25,000 ($1 million maximum) and is available to investors up to the age of 80.