By

Naples, Fla.

In an unusual arrangement, Citizens Bank in Providence, R.I., will soon be selling high-end life insurance products using agents employed by the Transamerica Group Inc., Los Angeles, to work specifically for the bank; it was revealed during the BISA conference here last week.

David R. Stebenne, vice president and director of insurance, Citizens Financial Services Inc., Providence, R.I., said he is negotiating an arrangement with Transamerica under which the carrier would hire four agents specifically to work within his banks branches. The agents would act like Citizens own employees, going through his banks training course to learn how to sell insurance to the banks customers, he said.

Stebenne said he would also take part in interviewing candidates for the four positions and in making hiring decisions.

The positions would be filled over the next three months or so, he said.

Stebenne said his bank is committed to sell insurance because of its potential for generating significant fee income and for better serving customers. But, he explained, it could take years for a bank to adopt the cultural change needed to sell insurance effectively.

Bringing in additional salespeople from an outside carrier “will let our insurance operation grow fast,” said Stebenne. His unit currently has only one internal licensed specialist selling life insurance, he said.

“We have some high-producing brokers, but Im not going to rely on them to grow our insurance program, because theyre not interested,” said Stebenne.

He said the approach he settled on would allow Citizens to leverage its relationship with Transamerica to grow its insurance business, without making a significant cash investment.

In addition to Transamerica products, the outside agents would also sell products from the banks other carriers, Stebenne said.

While insurance is a good opportunity to extend relationships with customers, Citizens own survey found that only half knew that the bank offered insurance and investment products, Stebenne reported.

The bank expects to sell about $3.7 million in life insurance this year, up from about $2.8 million last year, he said.

About 84% of the banks life sales have been universal and variable universal life, 6% disability, 5% single-premium life, 4% long-term care and 1% term life, he said.

Another expert at the same work session said his institution has helped build insurance sales with what it calls partner meetings.

Greenpoint Bank, New York, uses the meetings as cross-selling opportunities for members of its several sales forces, which include licensed branch employees, investment specialists and high-end insurance specialists.

Each member of the team must bring referrals for each other member, explained William Spencer, senior vice president of Greenpoint, in New York.

The teams have insurance revenue goals of $2.7 million this year, compared to $1.6 million sold last year, he reported.

“We expect insurance specialists to write policies on their own as well as from referrals,” explained Spencer.

In addition to the partner meetings, Greenpoint builds insurance sales using point-of-sale material, training for nonlicensed employees, seminars and “insurance days,” Spencer said.

In the insurance days, insurance specialists schedule meetings with employees at each of the banks 81 branches to drum up enthusiasm for insurance sales, he explained.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, March 10, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved. Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.