LIMRA International has acquired Kenneth Kehrer Associates, a research and consulting firm serving bank brokerage and life insurance operations.

The move will strengthen the ability of both organizations to help banks improve the performance of their brokerage and insurance businesses, according to a joint announcement by LIMRA and Kehrer.

The new operation, named Kehrer-LIMRA, will be run out of the association’s Windsor, Conn., headquarters. In its new incarnation, the company will continue to sell the benchmarking research and consulting services on banks and insurance that has been Kehrer’s hallmark for more than 20 years, according to the announcement.

LIMRA notes the purchase of Kehrer’s business is the first time it has made an acquisition to expand its capabilities. It did not disclose terms of the agreement.

Kenneth Kehrer, who had been president of Kenneth Kehrer Associates, Princeton, N.J., will become a member of the Kehrer-LIMRA board of directors and stay on as a consultant to the organization. Christine Kehrer, his spouse and business partner, will also join the board.

Purchase of a private business by a trade association is rare, notes Bob Kerzner, president and CEO of LIMRA. He says the acquisition signals “a new direction for LIMRA to be creative and to look to the future.”

The deal fits the association’s aim to become important across the financial spectrum, he explains. LIMRA expects Kehrer’s reputation for research and for conducting expert roundtables on bank sales of life insurance, annuities and mutual funds will help expand its membership ranks, he says.

“Ken provides the kind of data banks and insurers want, and now LIMRA will become far more important to banks and to insurance companies that care about growing in banks,” he says.

Kehrer and LIMRA have often done joint work over the past decade, including conferences, study groups and research reports. Over that time, the two organizations occasionally talked about a possible merger. Those talks began to intensify about two years ago, according to Kerzner.

LIMRA plans to delve into how insurers can increase productivity in the middle market for life insurance products, and recognizes that banks are well poised to help get more sales in that market, Kerzner adds.

“We hope with a closer association with more banks, we could become more helpful to them and insurer members by educating them about the opportunities in the business,” he says.

LIMRA will run the Kehrer unit as a separate business with dedicated resources, Kerzner adds.

Kenneth Kehrer says his organization will continue to work with other groups and sponsors, including Jackson National Life Insurance Company, Lansing, Mich., and the Bank Insurance and Securities Association, Wayne, Pa.

The reason he sold his business was because it had grown too big for him and his wife Christine to handle, he says.

“We’ve grown 40% in revenue over the past 3 years,” Kehrer says.

Much of that growth has come from the addition of more research studies, such as one started last year of brokerage activities in credit unions and community banks, he adds.

“The LIMRA relationship will allow us to continue to grow but not work as hard,” Kehrer says.