Two former United Jersey Bank executives hope to ply their expertise in the insurance business to help other banks set up profitable sales operations.
Louis Daniels and Michael A. Prairie, the founders of UJB's insurance unit, last month formed Charter Oak Marketing and Financial Group, Stamford, Conn. The two executives are credited with establishing one of the first full-service insurance agencies run by a New Jersey bank.
"We're entrepreneurs," Mr. Prairie said. "We had built something at UJB that was extremely profitable, and felt that we could replicate it at other banks."
While Mr. Prairie and Mr. Daniels were running UJB's insurance program, the bank booked $1 million of revenue from life insurance sales, according to Kenneth Kehrer, a Princeton, N.J., consultant.
"That's much more than any bank its size has done," Mr. Kehrer said. He added that insurance sales accounted for 15% of UJB's investment sales.
Recent decisions by regulators and the courts have emboldened some banks to expand or launch insurance sales programs. And Mr. Prairie sees an opportunity to help these banks navigate an unfamiliar business.
Magna Group Inc., a $5.3 billion-asset banking company based in St. Louis, recently hired Charter Oak to map out an insurance sales strategy.
G. Thomas Andes, Magna's chief executive, said that although the banking company has been selling mostly annuities and credit insurance, it plans to branch out into life insurance sales.
"We needed help to pull together the organization, the systems, and procedures to help our bank reps" sell more insurance products, he said. Mr. Andes said the details of the program are still being worked out.
Mr. Daniels said Charter Oak is providing consulting services to several other banks, too. He would name only one, Summit Bancorp., which merged with UJB Financial Corp. in April.
Charter Oak mostly helps banks assess whether they have the appropriate systems in place to take orders and handle compliance. It also sets up training for agents and helps negotiate sales agreements with insurance companies.
"It's mostly working on the efficiency, and improving penetration, training, and product selection," Mr. Daniels said.
Charter Oak plans to hire regional managers to offer its services nationwide, he said.
Both men were hired by UJB in 1987 and launched the bank's insurance unit two years later. Mr. Daniels also oversaw the creation of UJB's proprietary Pillar mutual funds in 1990, and the bank's own fixed annuity last year.