Researchers conclude in a new study that life insurers and banks are working together more smoothly but still need to improve their product distribution efforts.

The study was commissioned by the American Council of Life Insurers, Washington, and the American Bankers Insurance Association, Washington, and conducted by C.F. Effron Company L.L.C., Weston, Conn. It is a follow-up to studies that the ACLI and the ABIA released in 2005 and 2003.

Participants included 6 of the top 10 banking institutions selling life insurance and 6 of the top 10 life insurers selling insurance through banks.

Insurance company executives and bankers who responded to researchers this time around said that product availability is no longer a problem and that they are satisfied that they have identified profit opportunities.

In 2005, both insurance company executives and bankers had cited product availability and profit as top concerns.

This year, bankers and insurance company executives said they are thinking about ways to improve the life insurance application process and to use of technology to increase sales, the Effron researchers report.

About 67% of life insurance company executives and 63% of the bank executives said consumers are more aware than they were in 2003 that banks sell life insurance.

But life insurance executives said they want to see more support from bank senior managers for distribution of life products, while bankers said they are not satisfied with sales support from insurers for more complex cases and also think the application process still takes too long.

Banks want to see more standardized products that target a broader consumer population, so that the products can be sold by generalists, rather than by specialists.