Just months after dropping the telltale “A.I.G.” from its sales brochures, the company has leapfrogged its competitors and reclaimed a title it held for many years before its bailout — the top seller of fixed annuities to bank customers.
People buying the annuities in bank branches may be surprised to know they are signing up with A.I.G. The contracts are being offered under the names of two subsidiaries, Western National Life and First SunAmerica. Until last June, they carried the name of A.I.G. Annuity.
The booming annuity sales are a bright spot for American International Group, which must raise cash to pay back the federal government.
But some competitors and consumer advocates are questioning A.I.G.’s comeback, saying its ability to keep drawing federal money is giving it an unfair advantage just a year after its government rescue.
Often sold as alternatives to certificates of deposit, fixed annuities are insurance contracts that guarantee a set rate of return, unlike variable annuities, whose returns may track the ups and downs of the markets.
The people who buy them in banks tend to be looking for something safe, but which pays more than a certificate of deposit. Fixed annuity contracts usually run for many years, and even before A.I.G.’s bailout last year, its customers began to have qualms about tying up their money with a company whose future was uncertain.