The head of Admiralty Bank, which formed an alliance four months ago with a local unit of USI Insurance Services Corp., has found there is a fine line between selling insurance successfully and selling it too aggressively.

"We've introduced the fact that we're selling insurance through brochures in our lobby and with notices on our statements," said Ward Kellogg, president and chief executive officer of the $170 million-asset bank in Palm Beach, Fla. "But we're saying if you have a deposit account with us, no one is going to call you and try to sell you insurance unless you already said that you were interested."

That could lead to lower insurance sales in the short term, but Mr. Kellogg said the alternative could be worse.

"I don't think our customers would appreciate having insurance salespeople at their doorstep," he said. "We're respecting the trust our customers have in us."

The bank markets group health, personal and commercial property, and commercial auto policies. It refers customers to USI Florida agents in Boca Raton.

"We're close to making about $10,000 in commissions in a month," Mr. Kellogg said. "That was a goal we had, and we're going to reach it."

Still, he said, it is a learning process.

"We knew there was a market for certain insurance lines, but we're learning more about the insurance business as we go along," Mr. Kellogg said. "I never realized how aggressive and competitive the insurance industry is."

Admiralty is not the only community bank pushing its way into the insurance arena. Some 67% of the 815 community bank officials who responded to a survey last year by Grant Thornton of Chicago said they planned to sell life insurance in the next couple of years.

USI Florida is a division of USI Insurance of San Francisco, which has operations in 21 states and annual revenue of about $350 million.


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