The head of American Skandia Life Assurance Co.'s sales through banks has lost his job, a company official said.

Alan Blank, who was a vice president and national sales manager, is no longer on the payroll, the Shelton, Conn.-based variable annuity company confirmed.

Mr. Blank, who did not return a telephone call for comment, is expected to continue to work for American Skandia as a consultant.

Taking over Mr. Blank's role is Bayard Tracy, a senior vice president who oversees institutional sales and marketing. Mr. Tracy is credited with turning American Skandia into a leading underwriter of the life insurance component of bank proprietary annuities.

"We were looking to streamline the operation," Mr. Tracy said.

Company executives decided they didn't need two managers overseeing American Skandia's relationships with banks, Mr. Tracy said. The seven sales representatives who supported Mr. Blank's efforts will now report to Mr. Tracy.

The news took one observer a bit by surprise. American Skandia "brought Alan Blank in with a lot of fanfare," said Andrew Singer, managing director of Bank Insurance Market Research Group, Mamaronek, N.Y.

The company built a marketing campaign around Mr. Blank's hiring in 1994, he said. A letter Mr. Blank wrote to the banking industry, boasting of his 22 years in the market, was the centerpiece of an ad that ran in many trade periodicals, Mr. Singer said.

Mr. Blank was one of the founding fathers of companies that market investment products through banks. He sold his Los Angeles-based firm, Pamco Securities, in 1988 to Liberty Mutual, now Liberty Financial Cos., Boston. He was a vice chairman of Liberty's bank sales division until he was hired by American Skandia.

Mr. Tracy emphasized that American Skandia is not pulling out of banks and was happy with Mr. Blank's performance. The company has become the fourth-largest seller of variable annuities through banks, and it has generated $240 million in sales through banks so far this year, he said.

"That's not something you walk away from," he said.

American Skandia is a unit of Swedish insurance concern, Skandia Life Insurance Co., which manages more than $36 billion in 23 countries.

The U.S. unit was formed in 1988 to sell the company's wares through banks, stockbrokers, and financial planners. Banks make up 20% of the American subsidiary's total sales, Mr. Tracy said.

Mr. Tracy has established the company's name among banks that want to manage their own variable annuities. After forging an agreement with Fleet Financial Group Inc. in 1993, American Skandia was the first company to help design and underwrite a bank's own annuity.

The company's arrangement with Fleet sparked a trend in the banking industry. Ten banks now offer their own variable annuities.

Mr. Tracy has persuaded two megabanks, in addition to Fleet, to let American Skandia underwrite their annuities. Wells Fargo & Co., San Francisco, signed on in 1994, and Barnett Banks Inc., Jacksonville, Fla., started a proprietary variable annuity in January.

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