Aetna Retirement Services will hire additional wholesalers to beef up the distribution of its retail investment products through banks.

The company expects to add 16 wholesalers to its financial institutions division by yearend, raising the total to 36, said Brian D. Jessen, the vice president who heads the division.

Roughly half of the wholesalers would deal exclusively with banks, he said.

The division also serves nonbank brokerages.

The company, a subsidiary of Aetna Inc. in Hartford, Conn., hired Mr. Jessen two months ago from Nationwide Insurance, where he dealt with distribution through banks and third-party marketers.

His job was created to enhance efforts to sell through all sorts of financial services companies, but "specifically to head up efforts to sell through the banking channel," he said.

Aetna distributes annuities, mutual funds, and qualified plan products such as 401(k) and 403(b) plans through approximately 200 banks around the country, Mr. Jessen said.

"We hope to grow that pretty significantly," he said.

The company manages roughly $50 billion of assets. The banks it sells through "really run the gamut" in size and scope, Mr. Jessen said.

They include $74 billion-asset U.S. Bancorp in Minneapolis, $19.8 billion-asset Charter One Financial in Cleveland, and such smaller institutions as $2 billion-asset Local Financial Corp. in Oklahoma City, he said.

In recent months Alliance Capital, Delaware Investments, and Eaton Vance Distributors have also added salespeople who cater to banks.

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