Jackson National Life Insurance Company, Lansing, Mich., is getting out of the banking business.[@@]

Less than 6 years after buying First Federal Savings & Loan, San Bernardino, Calif., Jackson National, a subsidiary of Prudential P.L.C., London, has agreed to sell the unit to UnionBanCal Corp., San Francisco.

Jackson Federal Bank ended 2003 with $1.6 billion in assets, up from $118 million in assets when Jackson National bought it in November 1998.

Jackson National gave the bank its current name and used acquisitions to increase the number of branches to 14, from 4. The Jackson Federal offices will become branches of Union Bank of California.

A group of 6 commercial loan offices that Jackson Federal operates in California also will be part of the sale.

Jackson National hopes to complete the deal by early 2005.

Jackson National paid less than $7 million for the bank in 1998 and now is selling the bank for $305 million, says Jackson National spokesman Tim Padot.

Making the deal “was an opportunity to get a good return,” Padot says. “The acquisition environment for banks is really favorable right now in the U.S. We’re just capitalizing on a sound investment opportunity.”

Moreover, today, at Jackson National, “we’re really focusing on life insurance and annuities,” Padot says.

Jackson National hopes to continue to sell life insurance and annuities through the old Jackson Federal branches when UnionBanCal takes over, Padot adds.

Earlier this month, UnionBanCal completed a previously announced acquisition of the retirement plan portfolio of CNA Trust Company, a unit of CNA Financial Corp., Chicago. The price of that deal is not available.

UnionBanCal has acquired 5 financial institutions since 2002 and grown to more than 300 branches, from just 250 branches.

The company also has acquired several insurance brokerage firms.

“Our purpose is to make us more of a full-service bank to our corporate customers and to small business,” says Joanne Curran, a UnionBanCal senior vice president.