As banks and insurers compete in the lucrative retirement market, new numbers show a marked uptick in the sale of annuities at bank holding companies in the first half of 2011.

According to the Michael White-ABIA Bank Annuity Fee Income Report, annuity income earned by BHCs hit a record $1.53 billion in the first half of 2011, up 25 percent from $1.22 billion earned in first half last year.

Compiled by Michael White Associates  and sponsored by the American Bankers Insurance Association, the report is based on data from all 6,805 commercial and FDIC-supervised banks and 934 large top-tier bank holding companies operating on June 30, 2011. Of the 934 large BHCs, 383 or 41 percent participated in annuity sales activities during first half 2011. 

Wells Fargo & Company, led all bank holding companies in annuity commission income in first half 2011. Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Regions Financial Corp. rounded out the top five.

Among BHCs with assets between $1 billion and $10 billion, leaders included Stifel Financial Corp., National Penn Bancshares, Inc., and Old National Bancorp.  Among BHCs with assets between $500 million and $1 billion, leaders were Northeast Bancorp, First Citizens Bancshares Inc., and Van Diest Investment Company. 

Yet, banks were not alone in seeing surging annuity sales. In August, LIMRA reported robust gains in annuity sales among life insurers.

-- This article first appeared on Insurance Networking News.