John Hancock Life Insurance Company, Boston, is putting its name back on its career agency unit.[@@]

Back in 1999, Hancock dubbed the unit “Signator Financial Network” in an effort to emphasize the objectivity of the agents’ advice.

Now, to take advantage of strong consumer recognition of the Hancock brand name, Hancock is changing the name of the unit to “John Hancock Financial Network.

Hancock believes the change will help Hancock agents attract clients and draw more agents to Hancock, Hancock President James Benson says.

The move to use the Signator name to communicate the idea of agent objectivity “was not particularly helpful and was confusing in the marketplace,” Benson says.

Market researchers who surveyed consumers and agents for Hancock reported that consumers were more far familiar with the Hancock name and that a strong majority of agents preferred the Hancock name, Benson says.

“Every producer is consciously with the company they want to be with,” Benson says. “If they didn’t want to be identified with a company system, they would have gone somewhere else.”

Manulife Financial Corp., Toronto, acquired Hancock in April 2004.

Hancock wants to use Manulife capital to double the size of its sales force to 3,000 agents by 2010. Putting the Hancock name back on the agency system should boost the recruiting campaign, Benson says.

Hancock is not totally abandoning the Signator name, which alludes to the famous “John Hancock” signature on the Declaration of Independence: The company’s broker-dealer unit will continue to be known as Signator Investment Services.

But fewer than 200 registered investment advisors are using the Signator Investment brand, Benson says.

“The vast majority want to be identified with the company brand,” Benson says.