BB&T Insurance Services is extending its roster of insurance agencies in Virginia with two in Roanoke.

In a deal expected to close next month, the unit of North Carolina's BB&T Corp. will buy the sister agencies Chaney Thomas, Stephenson & Hill Inc. and Chaney, Thomas & Sarsfield Inc. BB&T's insurance operation is already the largest in Virginia not owned by an underwriter, according to recent rankings by Virginia Business.

Chaney Thomas, Stephenson & Hill is a full-service property/casualty insurance agency. Chaney, Thomas & Sarsfield specializes in employee benefits programs. The two agencies share the same address.

The deal, whose financial terms were not disclosed, fits a strategic objective of building a more significant presence in the rapidly growing Roanoke area, said Wade Reese, president of BB&T Insurance Services.

"We already had an agency in Roanoke, and this acquisition is one that really gives us a lot more commercial P&C business and an employee benefits presence," Mr. Reese said. BB&T now has no employee benefits agents in Roanoke, he said.

The Chaney Thomas agencies also "bring a lot of expertise and great client relationships that we're really excited about," Mr. Reese said.

BB&T Corp. is based in Winston-Salem, N.C. BB&T Insurance Services operates 54 agencies in the mid-Atlantic states - 27 in North Carolina, 19 in Virginia, and four each in South Carolina and Georgia.

The Chaney Thomas Agencies, as they are called, will be combined with BB&T's Roanoke agency, which will be renamed BB&T-Chaney Thomas. J. Randolph Garrett 3d, president of both Chaney Thomas agencies, will be named agency manager of BB&T-Chaney Thomas.

The agencies agreed to sell because they looked at BB&T and liked what they saw, Mr. Garrett said.

"We feel very comfortable," he said. "We like the idea of the banking referrals that we'll be getting, and they have a nice, growing banking presence in Roanoke."

Christopher Marinac, an analyst with Salomon Smith Barney's Robinson-Humphrey in Atlanta, noted that BB&T "has a very strong overlay between the agencies they buy and their commercial and retail banking unit."

Owning a lot of agencies gives BB&T a scale advantage over other banks, which "are trying to play catch-up," he said.

"What you're finding is scale really matters," Mr. Marinac said.

BB&T's insurance commissions totaled $32.5 million in the second quarter, 65% more than a year earlier. "I would feel pretty comfortable predicting that [BB&T's insurance] margins will continue to expand," Mr. Marinac said.

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