Symetra snags Hartford, Sun Life VA vets

Variable annuities up-and-comer hires wholesaler team

Jul 31, 2012 @ 4:03 pm

By Darla Mercado

Symetra Life Insurance Co. is taking another step toward raising its presence in the variable annuity world by hiring a wholesaling team from two rivals that have left the business.

The insurer has hired Jeffrey Jennings, James Maertz and Dinah Bird as Symetra’s wholesaling team to help promote the insurer’s True Variable Annuity, which targets fee-based and fee-only advisers. That product was released just last month and boasts over 100 different investment options.

Mr. Jennings joins from Sun Life Financial Inc., where he was vice president and regional marketing director, and was responsible for traditional and fee-based annuity sales through the independent broker-dealer channel. In his new post, he will be a senior investment specialist for Northern California and the surrounding region.

Mr. Maertz hails from The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc.’s mutual fund unit, where he was a regional vice president. During his time with Hartford, he served on Hartford Mutual Funds’ advisory board from 2009 to 2011.

Mr. Maertz’s new title will be senior investment specialist for Southern California and the surrounding area.

Ms. Bird is a veteran of the registered investment advisory world, joining from OJM Group, where she was a vice president of business development and portfolio management. In her new post, she will be Symetra’s senior investment specialist for Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio.

Symetra’s new hires, particularly of Mr. Jennings and Mr. Maertz, come at a time of upheaval in the VA industry. Both Sun Life and Hartford have left the industry, and their loss is the gain of insurers that hope to bolster their wholesaling ranks.

The additions raise Symetra’s profile in the VA industry, said Steven Schwartz, an analyst at Raymond James & Associates Inc.

“Symetra was kind of sleepy under Safeco [Corp.’s ownership; Symetra was spun off in 2004]. They’ve made some progress with chief executive Tom Marra, and he has a few things he wants to do to build the company,” Mr. Schwartz said.

“As we continue to build our distribution and add seasoned wholesalers, we expect that sales will gain momentum and particularly contribute to the fourth quarter,” said Dan Guilbert, executive vice president of Symetra’s retirement division.

“We believe we’re on track to achieve our 2012 target of $250 million fixed indexed annuity and variable annuity product sales,” he said.

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