BB&T Insurance Services this week made its latest deal in a continuing quest to have insurance capability everywhere its parent does business.
The unit of Winston-Salem, N.C.-based BB&T Corp. agreed to buy Asura Corp., an independent agency in North Carolina's high-tech Research Triangle Park. BB&T Insurance has 52 agencies in North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia, and it wants more so that it can broaden both its geographical reach and its specialty expertise.
"Typically we follow the bank's footprint," said Wade Reese, president of the insurance unit. "The bank is growing so fast," he joked, "it's been all we can do to keep up."
BB&T would not disclose the price of the Asura deal, which is expected to close in September. Asura is to be merged with BB&T's agency in Raleigh, N.C., to form BB&T-Asura.
Asura writes about $50 million of premiums a year and has "a strong technological emphasis," Mr. Reese said. He noted that Research Triangle Park - named for a trio comprising Duke University, the University of North Carolina, and North Carolina State University in Raleigh - is home to numerous high-tech firms.
The deal "is just a tremendous asset for us," Mr. Reese said.
Asura president Southgate Jones 3d is to be named Triangle-area manager for BB&T-Asura. Robert Guthrie, chairman of Asura, would be Triangle executive for BB&T Insurance Services. Bruce Colhoun would remain the principal agent in the combined agency.
"Our purpose is to help fulfill a mission that BB&T has - to be a full-service financial services provider for our clients," Mr. Reese said. "We're very integrated with BB&T as a whole, as product specialists."
For the future, he said, "we're concentrating primarily on developing a much larger system in Georgia and beginning one in Maryland. Those are our top priorities."
BB&T has four insurance agencies in Georgia but none in Kentucky or Maryland, though its parent has banking offices there.
"BB&T has probably been the most aggressive acquirer of insurance agencies" among banking companies, especially midsize ones, said John Balkind, an analyst at Fox-Pitt, Kelton in New York.
"They are in the early stages of building their insurance franchise," Mr. Balkind said. "The long-term strategy is to build fee revenues and ultimately to be able to cross-sell property casualty insurance into their middle-market lending base."
That's easier said than done. Banks have struggled to get their traditional services to work well together with insurance.
"My guess is that BB&T has made some headway but they are way off from where they would like to be," Mr. Balkind said.
If anyone can successfully cross-sell banking and insurance products, he said, however, it is BB&T. "I think because of their management commitment to the business, and BB&T's internal sales culture, that they'll foster that cross-sell over time."