The former head of AFLAC's bank insurance program has landed at Michael White & Associates as a consultant covering the southeastern insurance market.

Ed L. Ray, 47, joined the Radnor, Pa., firm two weeks ago. He had left Columbus, Ga.-based AFLAC in late August after a disagreement over the company's strategy in targeting banks, which resulted in the elimination of his post. He had held the job since it was created last December, said executives at the insurer. Mr. Ray was offered reassignment within the company, they said.

Mr. Ray said AFLAC's commitment to bank insurance sales seemed strong initially. Its approach had benefits for all parties, he added: the insurance companies, the bank, and its customers. Until August, Mr. Ray was point person for banks selling AFLAC products. However, the insurer reversed its approach and has now charged its 2,500 agents with pitching products to be sold through banks. "To be honest, they're not giving it much emphasis," Mr. Ray said.

The $31 billion-asset company -- which offers supplemental insurance products like accident and disability, cancer policies, long-term care, and life insurance -- has more than 50 banks selling its products, Mr. Ray said. Many more banks offer AFLAC products to employees through payroll deduction.

Mr. Ray said he thinks AFLAC will ultimately succeed in sales to bank customers, though he disagrees with the new strategy for doing so.

Frank Land, an AFLAC second vice president, said using the insurer's career agents to pitch banks on selling insurance to customers makes sense. With so many agents already in the field, "it's kind of crazy to try to reinvent a distribution system," he said.

But AFLAC will continue to court banks, which Mr. Land described as the "next frontier" in insurance. He was unable to quantify AFLAC's bank business because the insurer does not track these sales separately.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ray said, he plans to recruit more community banks into the insurance business through his one-day crash courses sponsored by the Financial Institutions Insurance Association and the Independent Community Bankers Association.

"You've got these community banks who frankly need the fee income," Mr. Ray said. But many don't understand insurance yet, he said.

Michael White, the consultant who is also an FIIA director, said Mr. Ray brings valuable community bank experience to his company. "I wanted him on my team because he's very knowledgeable," Mr. White said.

Mr. Ray, who started as a community banker, has also done stints with Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, Commerzbank AG, Bank of America Corp., Barclays Bank, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. He held numerous posts at AFLAC before being asked to build the bank marketing effort.

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