Michael McCoy, who helped raise Security First Life Insurance Co. to prominence in bank sales, is resigning to become chief marketing officer at a rival American Express Co. unit.

"I want to drive distribution to record-setting heights" at the unit, American Enterprise Life, said Mr. McCoy, 36, a senior vice president in the bank division of Security First. He starts with American Enterprise the week of March 10.

Security First, based in Los Angeles, sold $149 million of annuities through 85 banks last year. American Enterprise, based in Minneapolis, sold $852 million, which made it No. 3 in the market.

Mr. McCoy will oversee sales of annuities and life insurance for $5 billion-asset American Enterprise, which markets primarily through banks.

He will also attempt to expand the company's sales into other markets, he said. He will report to president Doug Forsberg.

American Enterprise recruited Mr. McCoy to fill a vacancy left by Steven Gordon six months ago. Security First has not found a successor.

Mr. McCoy has been with First Security since 1990. At the time, the company was a low-rated firm called Holden Group, mostly owned by Glen Holden, an insurance executive. It struggled until 1995, when London Insurance Group increased its stake to 80% and changed Holden's name.

Mr. McCoy was able to establish footholds in several banks despite the low grades from rating agencies. Indeed, Security First has garnered endorsements from the American Bankers Association for seven consecutive years.

Whether those endorsements have led to sales is difficult to tell, observers said.

But they added that the choice, over other companies including Invest Financial Corp., the leading supplier of investment products to banks, says a lot about Mr. McCoy.

"What impressed me when I visited Security First was how much the organization he put together was like a family," said Kenneth Kehrer, a Princeton, N.J., consultant who advised the ABA on its choice.

Before his stint at Security First, Mr. McCoy was "viewed as a young superstar" when he was national sales manager for Marketing One Inc., said Richard Ayotte, managing director of American Brokerage Consultants Inc., St. Petersburg, Fla.

Marketing One is a Portland, Ore., firm that helps banks run their brokerages.

Despite Mr. McCoy's efforts, Security First remains a second-tier player.

Mr. McCoy's new employer "is pretty substantial in bank distribution and wants to be more," Mr. Ayotte said. "That will give him a great deal more visibility-far more than he had at Security First."

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