finally are allowed to sell life insurance. Continuing a battle that dates back several years, bankers will push for another bill next year seeking the one insurance power they lack. "It's been our No. 1 priority for several years," said William H. King, president of the Indiana Bankers Association. "What we're looking for is parity. "The thing we like to say in Indiana is, 'Anybody in any kind of business can sell insurance except banks,'" he said. National banks and other financial institutions in the state can sell life insurance products. Indiana's state banks were allowed to sell annuities beginning last year, and they can sell other types of insurance, such as property and casualty. They currently must use third parties to sell life insurance. The main opposition each year to the bills - not surprisingly - comes from life insurance agents. However, state-chartered bank supporters are more optimistic about their prospects in the 1996 legislative session because of a recent court decision in Indiana that enlarged the disparity between state and national banks on insurance powers. It said NBD Bank, a unit of Detroit-based NBD Bancorp, not only could sell life insurance in a town of fewer than 5,000 - which already was allowed - but could sell it in other areas from the small-town offices. "We think we have a much better shot this year," said S. Joe DeHaven, executive director of the Community Bankers Association of Indiana. "You've got NBD sitting on one side of the street and one of my state- chartered banks sitting on the other side of the street, and now NBD is permitted to sell life insurance," he said. Only about 20 states currently allow their banks to sell life insurance, according to Michael D. White, managing director of the Financial Institutions Insurance Association. Bruce Klineman, for one, wants Indiana to be next. "We're at a competitive disadvantage against some of those (national) banks," said Mr. Klineman, insurance product manager for Irwin Union Insurance Inc., a division of $600 million-asset Irwin Union Bank and Trust, Columbus, Ind. "A lot of insurance people don't realize that." If a customer wanted Irwin Union Insurance to handle all of his or her insurance needs, "that cannot happen today," he said. Insurance powers have been a hot issue recently for bankers nationwide. The Comptroller of the Currency has urged bankers to resist a moratorium on new insurance powers sought in legislation to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act. And the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Florida case to determine whether states can prevent national banks from selling insurance.
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