The Hartford announced Wednesday that it will stop its individual annuity business and is pursuing “sales or other strategic alternatives” for its individual life, Woodbury Financial Services and retirement plans.

The insurer says the move is a result of management and Board of Directors evaluation of the company’s strategy and business portfolio conducted over the past several quarters. New annuity sales will stop April 27.

Spokeswoman Shannon Lapierre said that while the company pursues its option, it will continue to actively sell individual life plans and has no plans to change its group benefits.

Woodbury Financial Services is The Hartford’s large independent broker-dealer and its potential sale has created tremendous uncertainty for advisers. The Hartford, under fire from its largest shareholder, hedge fund manager John Paulson, did not identify potential buyers, say when a sale might be final, or explain how the transition will be handled, says Larry Papike, founder of Cross-Search, a Jamul, Calif.-based recruiting firm specializing in financial advisers.

The uncertainty creates unnecessary distractions for advisers at a time when clients are beginning to have more confidence in the markets and investing and need their advisers’ attention, he says.

“This is unbelievably disruptive to the advisers at Woodbury,” Papike says. “Advisers are bound to ask: ‘Who will be the buyer? Will we have to change clearing firms?’ It immediately puts the advisers’ practices upside down because they don’t know what’s next.”

Mitchell reports for Financial Planning, a SourceMedia publication.

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