Ask most financial services distributors their sentiments about selling and servicing annuities, and a good number of them might reveal their own personal horror stories about a promising selling opportunity gone bad.Many producers face an uphill climb to precisely crafting annuities for both personal and institutional customers. Influenced both by state regulation issues and corporate strategy decisions, annuities often undergo a myriad of permutations in their design. With a product line that's often a moving target, brokers have found it tough to pinpoint products for customers' needs.

"There is much variation among the design of annuities, all set apart by various business rules and parameters," says Eric Denham, vice president for product development for Columbus, Ohio-based Info-One, a provider of Web-based annuity product solutions.

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