First Nationwide Bank is counting on estate planning seminars to spark life insurance sales to its wealthiest customers.

The $14 billion-asset thrift has long used educational workshops to sell long-term-care insurance. It began applying the approach to cash-value life insurance in June.

"For a high-net-worth individual, the biggest worry is estate protection," said Gregory D. Vacca, a first vice president who oversees insurance sales for First Nationwide from its FN Investments Center in West Sacramento, Calif.

Adding cash-value life insurance to a trust can be a successful technique for increasing and protecting assets, he explained. And once customers understand that insurance can be part of an effective plan for wealth transfer, it makes for "an easy sell," he said.

So after mailing invitations to affluent bank customers 55 and older last month, First Nationwide held eight estate planning seminars in the San Francisco Bay area, which has the largest cluster of the bank's more than 100 branches.

The seminars, Mr. Vacca said, attracted 338 people, and follow-up calls resulted in 20 sales consultations with a pair of insurance specialists. He said he expects those sessions will eventually yield at least $150,000 in life insurance premiums.

"Everything we have laid out as goals we've been able to hit," Mr. Vacca said. Although the program is still in a start-up phase, he said he expects about one in four who attend seminars will eventually buy an insurance product with a premium of $10,000 to $20,000.

First Nationwide offers a variety of policies underwritten by nearly 30 companies, Mr. Vacca said. Among the top providers are All American Life Insurance Co., Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co., Security Life of Denver Insurance Co., and Chubb Corp., he said.

As a thrift, First Nationwide has no trust department, so it enlisted a San Diego company called Asset Protection Group to lend a hand with the seminars and to support the establishment of trusts.

Paving the way to sales with education makes good sense, according to an insurance sales veteran.

"Seminars are very successful because they bring people in the door - but you need to follow up right away" with sales calls, said Valerie Jordan, a bank insurance marketing consultant based in Belchertown, Mass.

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