GE Capital Services is consolidating the insurance companies it has picked up during a three-year acquisition spree.
A new Consumer Savings and Insurance Group, based in Stamford, Conn., will house two divisions of insurance companies: those that focus on wealth accumulation and transfer and those that emphasize wealth and lifestyle protection.
The aim is to group together companies with similar products and strategies so that they can distribute insurance and annuity products more efficiently, said a spokesman for the General Electric Co. unit.
The wealth accumulation and transfer division will include First Colony Corp., Life of Virginia, and Seattle-based GE Capital Assurance, known as GNA Corp. The spokesman said the company is considering dropping the GNA name, but no decision has yet been made.
The wealth and lifestyle protection unit includes Union Fidelity, GE Capital Assurance Long-Term Care operations, and Harvest Insurance.
GE Capital has been buying companies in an effort to boost its insurance and investment product sales through financial institutions.
Further details of the plan, which was revealed in an internal announcement, are still being hammered out, the spokesman said. More information will be available in January.
Combining GNA, First Colony, and Life of Virginia makes sense from a distribution standpoint, said David Shapiro, an insurance consultant in Los Gatos, Calif. But he said it is too soon to tell if the reorganization will prove successful.
The combination will take advantage of each company's distribution strengths. GNA has strong bank distribution capabilities, First Colony sells mostly through independent agents, and Life of Virginia does a large volume of business through broker-dealers.
They don't cross lines with business, Mr. Shapiro said. As long as GE centralizes product development and uses the new structure for distribution purposes, the organization makes sense, he said.
GE Capital began buying insurance companies three years ago through the GNA subsidiary to expand its investment product offerings.
The acquisition of $9.3 billion-asset First Colony, an insurance underwriter, which closed Dec. 3, helped boost GNA's term-life-insurance sales through banks. Before the First Colony acquisition, GNA was mostly known for its fixed annuity products.
However, GNA's fixed annuity sales through banks in 1996 have plunged to about a third of last year's level, according to data from Kenneth Kehrer, a consultant in Princeton, N.J. Third quarter sales totaled $32 million, versus $93 million in last year's third quarter. Sales for the first nine months of 1996 were $152 million, versus $474 million last year.
According to Mr. Kehrer's data, GNA now ranks 16th in sales volume of fixed annuities through banks. Two years ago, the company was in the top three.
The president of the financial institutions group at a competing insurance company, who asked that his name be withheld, said GNA was not the formidable opponent this year that it has been in the past, and that GE could boost its performance and bottom line with its consolidation plan.
He also questioned the wisdom of dropping the GNA name in favor of GE Capital Assurance. "A lot of bankers see GE as a competitor," he said.