To drive fresh growth, Ayer is pushing rapidly into wealth management and retirement planning. Sales of 401(k) plans, one of Hartford's fastest-growing products, jumped 31%, to a record $3.2 billion in 2005. Hartford is also making inroads internationally. One especially hot performer is its Japan annuity business, which last year saw assets surge 53% over the prior year. Continued growth in the Connecticut-based firm's bread-and-butter life insurance and variable annuities sales, as well as a foray into new international markets, helped push assets under management up 11% last year, to $323 billion.

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