Fleet Financial Group Inc. has snared a senior executive from one of the nation's largest insurance companies and entrusted him with the job of building an insurance business from scratch.

Robert Evans, who worked at Travelers Insurance Corp. for 19 years, will assume his new post as managing director of insurance services at the Providence, R.I.-based banking company on Oct. 2.

In a recent interview, Mr. Evans chose not to reveal Fleet's profit goals, but his hiring has consultants believing that the bank is serious about marketing insurance.

"Fleet started on the slow path in the insurance business, but when you bring someone in with Bob Evans' background and caliber you're escalating to the fast track," said Valerie Jordan, a consultant in Belchertown, Mass.

So far, the only insurance-related product that Fleet offers is Galaxy, a family of annuity portfolios with $120 million in assets which the bank manages itself.

Fleet was the first bank in the country to manage its own annuities when it launched Galaxy two years ago.

Fleet has charged Mr. Evans with developing a comprehensive insurance program by the end of 1996 that will offer customers various types of noninvestment-related insurance products including term and whole life, property and casualty, disability, automobile, and health insurance.

The $51 billion-asset banking company is poised to become a major seller of insurance in New England since its pending acquisition of Shawmut National Corp. will make it the largest financial institution in that region.

The acquisition is expected to close by the end of this year, and will bring Fleet the No. 1 market share in most consumer and business markets.

"I was running a very significant business at Travelers, so I wouldn't come over to Fleet if I didn't see the prospect of building a large comprehensive insurance business there," he said.

Insurance products is the next step for Fleet to become a financial services supermarket, Mr. Evans said in a telephone interview while on vacation at Cape Cod.

Fleet will begin experimenting with various insurance products over the next year. Mr. Evans will also negotiate contracts with various insurance companies who will supply the bank with the insurance and annuity products.

Mr. Evans said he will soon begin studying the different ways to market and deliver each product to consumers.

For example, he hasn't decided yet whether he wants to hire agents dedicated to insurance sales, or license the company's 225 brokers.

Following completion of the Shawmut acquisition expected by the end of the year, Mr. Evans will report to Gunnar S. Overstrom. Mr. Overstrom, who is currently Shawmut's president, will become a vice chairman overseeing Fleet's consumer banking and investment services.

Mr. Evans was president of the Travelers Life and Annuity Co. subsidiary, which held about $25 billion in assets from life, disability, and long-term-care insurance.

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