Coverdell and Co., an Atlantabased insurance-marketing firm, is striking new agreements with banks to sell insurance to its customers.

The company recently added Birmingham-based AmSouth Bancorp. and Houston-based First Interstate of Texas to its client roster. Both banks will begin marketing insurance products to their checking-account customers this fall.

Banks are not marketing these products simply for the sake of selling insurance, said Kenneth Williams, vice president in charge of marketing at Association of Banks in Insurance, an Atlantabased trade group.

"The main reason is to enhance the benefits of opening a checking account," Mr. Williams said.

"As banks try to find new ways to provide value to their customers, offering insurance products is "another bell and whistle," he added.

AmSouth has contracted with Coverdell to develop and administer the bank's first insurance-marketing program.

Starting this fall, the $17 billion-asset banking company will begin offering accidental-death insurance to its checking-account customers.

Coverdell will also be creating and running a term-life insurance program for checking-account customers at First Interstate of Texas. a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based First Interstate Bancorp, a $53 billion-asset banking company.

Information on the insurance products will be sent to customers as a "stand alone" mailing, as opposed to the "statement stuffers" often used by banks.

Stand-alone mailings are more expensive, but the results are much better, said Michael D. Levison, Coverdell's chief executive.

Response rates on Coverdell's direct-mail marketing range from three-quarters of 1% to 5%. depending on the product. Mr. Levison. said. Accidental death insurance, for example, has sold very well through banks, he noted.

Now that banks have gotten more involved in selling investment products, "it has opened doors" for insurance-marketing firms, Mr. Levison said.

And once a bank has used Coverdell to market one insurance product. there are usually opportunities to sell more products through that bank, he said.

Of the seven products Coverdell carries, banks typically offer two or three a year.

"Banks are not going to want to deluge their customers with too many products," Mr. Levison said,

Coverdell, which was one of the first companies to begin marketing its products through banks in the late 1970s, focuses its own marketing efforts on the nation's top 125 banks.

It has 20 of the top 100 banks as clients, including such banking giants as NationsBank, Comerica Bank, Crestar Financial Corp., and California Federal Bank.

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