Aetna Life Insurance and Annuity Co. plans to crack the bank market by hiring a team of seasoned salespeople to market a broad array of products.

The Hartford, Conn.-based company has recently wooed executives away from two top investment product marketing firms, and plans to add more staff to its bank group by yearend.

The newly hired salespeople, Robert O'Mara from GNA Corp., and Paul Huntsberger from Independent Financial Marketing Group, both focused on business development at their former firms.

At Aetna, the executives report to vice president David Sanderford, who joined the insurer last summer after leaving Seattle-based GNA.

Aetna is smart to cull its sales force from the bank channel, said Andrew Singer, managing director of Bank Insurance Market Research Group, Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Banks constitute "a specialized market with its own requirements," Mr. Singer said. "It makes sense to go with people who know it,"

Aetna is not the only insurer to look to other marketing firms to build talent. Jackson National Life hired Bradley Powell earlier this year to lead its drive to gain business from banks. Mr. Powell joined the Atlanta-based insurance company from Keyport Life Insurance Co., which has already made inroads in selling annuities through banks.

Aetna is late getting into the bank market and will be facing off against a number of insurers that already call the territory their own. But analysts say Aetna has something that many of its competitors lack: broad name recognition.

"I absolutely feel that will make a difference," Mr. Singer said.

Mr. Sanderford said Aetna's high insurance ratings and solid capital base will help the company to work with banks.

The company will also offer a breadth of products and services that many other insurers can't compete with, Mr. Sanderford said. For example, he pointed to Aetna's desire to help banks create their own variable annuities, a service that just a handful of its competitors provide.

Aetna will offer different payment structures for its insurance and annuity products, Mr. Sanderford said. Banks can go the traditional route and receive commissions when the sale is made, or Aetna will pay smaller fees initially and the balance through ongoing fees.

The latter approach will appeal to banks that want an ongoing stream of income instead of a one-time boost, he said.

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