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Norwich Union looks at variable annuities for 2009

Norwich Union has revealed that it could be ready to follow its competitors into the variable annuity market next year.

Head of investment development Andrew Lee says the life office is “ratcheting up” its interest in third-way products and has increased the number of staff studying the sector and an offering could be launched next year.

He says: “We are conscious that the products meet a consumer need to have more certainty and piece of mind but we are also conscious of the price issue.

“UK consumers are more price-conscious than in the US. Current economic conditions are likely to increase consumer appetite for the products.”

But he adds: “Several insurance companies have been caught out by their own assumptions so they will be very careful that their capital preservation ensures that these products do not come back to bite them. This is something that plays to our core strengths.”

Standard Life recently announced that its variable annuity offering is to be delayed until the fourth quarter of this year. Aegon has recently launched a guaranteed offering and Axa is set to launch next year.

Informed Choice joint managing director Martin Bamford says: “It would be good for a major player such as NU to come into the sector as it could mean that this market is finally starting to mature.”

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