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New Skandia Chief Mulls Hybrid Products


American Skandia Insurance of Shelton, Conn. is already known as a variable annuity product innovator, particularly of bonus annuities, performance guarantees and immediate variable annuities. But Wade Dokken plans to push that reputation even further.

Dokken, who in late May was named president and CEO of American Skandia, wants to develop more variaties of annuities, offer a broader array of asset classes of mutual funds and possibly create new combinations of annuities and mutual funds.

"Hold tight and expect to see some exciting products" from American Skandia in the next year, Dokken said.

"We are not constrained by our insurance license," he said. "Products that require a life insurance license are a very small part of what a financial planner and their customer needs.

"We don't have a business plan, per se. Developing any packaged product that is important to financial planners and investors, short of individual stocks and bonds - that's our business plan."

However, Dokken, who has been with American Skandia since 1989, plans to continue some strategies of his predecessor Jan Carendi. Foremost among these is to rely on non-proprietary fund and annuity managers and to constantly review them for superior performance.

American Skandia does not itself manage money so its job is not to sell any specific fund but to find the best products available, said Dokken.

"If someone we work with doesn't have a superior product, we no longer market that product," he said.

Dokken said he had long admired Carendi's emphasis on his employees and his cultivation of the loyalty of the 45,000 financial advisors and 1,500 broker/dealers with whom American Skandia does business. As chairman, Carendi always tried to motivate and develop the skills and the careers of the people with whom American Skandia does business, Dokken said. This is an American Skandia tradition well-known throughout the investment management industry and one he intends to continue, the new chairman said.

"There is a true passion, a real culture here that is a big part of our competitive advantage," Dokken said.

"Our business partners know we try to bring them the best and most innovative products," he said. "And the chairman has shown that he cares about his employees and customers."

Dokken, 40, is one of the youngest chairmen in the investment management industry. When he joined American Skandia in 1989, Dokken, then 29, was the national sales manager of Planco, which is now a wholesaling division of Hartford Life of Hartford, Conn.

Dokken left Planco, a well-established firm, to join Skandia to build its wholesaling force in a year when Skandia sold only $200,000 in variable annuities and variable life, he said.

What appeared to be a highly risky, perhaps even foolish move to Dokken's peers, made perfect sense to him.

"It was so exciting because no Putnam, no Fidelity was going to hire some 29-year-old to be their national sales manager," he said. "Skandia took a risk on me, where other people would not have, and that gave me a chance to have some extraordinary fun."

In 1999, American Skandia sold $10.1 billion worth of annuities and mutual funds. It sold another $4.3 billion in the first quarter of this year, Dokken said. Within five years, Dokken aims to bring the firm's annual sales to $25 billion, with $20 billion of sales in mutual funds and $5 billion in annuities.