The U.S. annuity business is in flux, with a 6 percent decline in inflows and an 11 percent increase in outflows for all of 2012, according to the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. (DTCC). But here's a more interesting annuity statistic: More than 50 percent of 2012 annuity inflows were in IRAs.

The IRA market is set for a major re-shuffle in 2013 due to the expected publication of a reproposed rule defining ERISA fiduciaries by the Department of Labor (DOL). DOL's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has indicated that IRAs will be included in its new definition of fiduciary investment advice. The industry now expects that this will require most IRAs that include investment planning or advice to move to advisory platforms.

Depending on how EBSA writes the rule, annuities developed for the IRA market could be one of the most heavily impacted products. But there is one niche of the business that could benefit. It is a genre of no-load variable annuity (VA) created for Registered Investment Advisers (RIAs). Jefferson National launched the first such VAs in 2005, and about 30 other companies and 60 products have since joined the market. No-load VAs typically have no surrender charge period and lower mortality and expense risk (M&E) charges than broker-sold VA. Most no-load contracts don't offer living benefit options.

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