Three Southern banking companies — First Union Corp., Wachovia Corp., and Regions Financial Corp. — have just expanded their insurance product offerings into long-term care through alliances with insurer John Hancock Financial Services of Boston, which has been seeking to beef up its bank distribution.

Wachovia, a $70.8 billion-asset company in Winston-Salem, N.C., that has long sold insurance as well as investment products through its Wachovia Insurance Services subsidiary, is adding only Hancock’s SimpleCare long-term-care product, a simplified policy with easier underwriting. “Some long-term-care applications are intimidating to investment representatives,” said Fran Senner-Hurley, general director of John Hancock’s financial institutions group, the insurer’s bank marketing arm. “SimpleCare is a much shorter application, with six medical underwriting questions. A healthy person can be approved on the spot, depending on age.”

Wachovia’s 170 investment representatives rotate through the company’s 700 branches in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia; they sell mutual funds, annuities, and fixed-income securities from a range of providers.

“We’re not going to turn our reps into insurance experts, but a product like this helps round out their discussions,” said David Holton, president of Wachovia Insurance Services. “If a more complex product is needed, they can refer the client to our estate planning people.”

Birmingham, Ala.-based Regions Financial, which has assets of $42.9 billion, is close to completing its first year of offering Hancock’s full suite of core insurance and investment products — fixed and variable annuities, mutual funds, and life insurance — through its branches. It has just added long-term-care insurance, which it will also market through the branch network.

“We’re in the early stages of rolling all this out,” said Chuck Wood, senior vice president, manager, Regions Retail Investment Services. “We’ll have local ads, and we’ll have seminars on the product, but it’s all going to take some time.”

Mr. Wood added that Regions is hiring insurance agents to sell the product. “I make no bones about it; it’s all baby steps.”

Charlotte, N.C.-based First Union, which has $258 billion of assets, is also adding John Hancock’s life and long-term-care policies to its roster of products geared to affluent and retail markets.

“First Union has dedicated insurance agents that cover middle-market on up to wealth management, along with a focus on small businesses,” Ms. Senner-Hurley said. “There’s an opportunity to have strong sales in variable life and survivorship policies, and long-term-care as well.”

John Hancock has built up its distribution of annuity, mutual fund, life insurance, and long-term-care products through banks, thrifts, and credit unions in the past year, hiring bank distribution veteran Timothy J. Waterworth from Fidelity Investments in March and beefing up its bank wholesaler roster.

It expects to report $2.9 million of life and long-term-care product sales through its 12 bank allies for the first nine months of 2000 — double the bank-channel sales of these products a year earlier, said Ms. Senner-Hurley.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.