Insurance heavy hitters Jackson National and New York Life have had a pretty good year for sales so far, according to their semi-annual sales figures. And it has not been an easy market.

While neither firm was able to break out sales through advisory channels at press time, Jackson said total sales and deposits were up 54% to $9.4 billion as of June, driven primarily by an 81% boost in variable annuity sales to $6.8 billion. Over the same period, the company sold $915 million in fixed annuities, up 7% over the same period in 2009.

Jackson says its success is primarily down to “maintaining discipline in our product pricing and operational expenses,” according to Clark Manning, Jackson’s president and CEO.

Roughly translated, this means Jackson’s prices have remained stable at a time when other firms have had to jack theirs up to cover liabilities caused by underpriced riders (see “Annuities After the Deluge,” in BIC’s June issue). “It’s sounds like Jackson is saying that it priced wisely in the past and now its products look more attractive [than competitors’],” says Michael White, president of Michael White Associates in Radnor, Pa., which aggregates insurance sales data in the bank channel from bank holding company reports. “If that’s the case, my hat’s off to them.”

Meanwhile, New York Life reported “record” sales of $870 million in immediate income annuities in the first half of this year, up 2% from last year.

The firm says its success in these products, in which it says it is the top seller, is due to a combination of its perceived strength in the market combined with investor fears over whether their nest eggs will support their retirement. White is inclined to agree. “It doesn’t surprise me that New York Life would see growth in immediate annuities,” he says. “People need streams of income and they’re so panicked over the state of their retirement savings that preserving assets is the most meaningful factor for them.”