Equitable Distributors Inc., the Axa Financial unit that sells insurance through banks and other financial institutions, will close its Newport Beach, Calif., headquarters and move to New York in the wake of departures by two top-level executives.

Up to 100 jobs, including wholesaler and technological support positions, will move to the East Coast headquarters of French parent company Axa in the next six months. Equitable Distributors sells annuities and life insurance products underwritten by Equitable Life Assurance Co. California employees have the option of moving to New York.

Several weeks ago Equitable Distributors' co-chief executives, Jamie Sheperdson and Greg Brakovich, left the company to join a competitor, both taking key positions at Security First Group in Los Angeles, a division of Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. of New York. Security First also distributes insurance products through financial institutions.

The shutdown of the Newport Beach office was prompted partly by the departures of Mr. Sheperdson and Mr. Brakovich, but also by a desire to leverage the parent company's resources, said Michael Dibbert, who was recently promoted to managing director of Equitable Distributors.

"It improves our ability to directly advance agendas on the development of product designs," he said.

Equitable Distributors has direct selling agreements with 35 banks of varying sizes and sells to about 15 banks through third-party marketers. Its sales last year were $2.2 billion, $400 million through the banking channel - against $88 million through banks two years earlier.

However, there is room for growth, Mr. Dibbert said.

"I'd love to see 50 direct selling agreements with banks," he said.

Equitable Distributors is also scouting for new third-party marketing agreements and is talking with a brokerage firm, Mr. Dibbert said. He declined to name the company.

The unit will also expand the product line available through banks. Right now, almost all of its bank-channel sales are for variable annuity products.

"We have a couple of fixed-annuity products floating around out there," Mr. Dibbert said. "We will make some minor changes to them and then start to aggressively market them."

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