Though many financial firms stopped introducing variable annuity products in the past year as sales slumped, MetLife took another course: It launched a simplified version that, the New York company said, will appeal to customers and be easier for more bank representatives to sell.

Kevin Crowe, the managing director of the bank channel for MetLife, said it has been developing the Simple Solution Variable Annuity for more than a year despite harsh market conditions. He said the company wanted to design a "straightforward and simplified" product designed primarily for individual investors at or near retirement who buy their investments through banks.

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