John Hancock Financial Services Inc. is gearing up to boost its mutual fund, annuity, and insurance sales through banks, thrifts, and credit unions.

The Boston company recently hired Timothy J. Waterworth to be vice president of its financial institutions group, a new post. Mr. Waterworth, a former regional vice president at Fidelity Investments, is in charge of initiating bank distribution relationships and developing existing ones.

Also, by Sept. 30, John Hancock will add four field wholesalers and four in-house wholesalers to sell its proprietary funds and annuities, bringing the total of wholesalers in each category to 12, said Peter Mawn, senior vice president of the company's financial institutions group.

In addition, he said, John Hancock is aiming to make its life insurance and long-term care products available through 12 banking companies by yearend, up from eight. John Hancock's current client roster includes Chase Manhattan Corp. in New York and Wachovia Corp. in Winston-Salem, N.C.

"Right now banks are all very interested in insurance and how they can sell it," Mr. Mawn said. "We're working with those banks to find the best way for them to do that business."

However, John Hancock, whose mutual fund and annuity sales grew 42% last year, compared with 1998, is still light years behind some of its competitors in the bank channel.

Last year it sold more than $200 million of mutual funds and $500 million of annuities through banks. By contrast, Putnam Investments of Boston sold about $9 billion of mutual funds last year through bank brokerages.

On the insurance side, Hancock reported $1 million of new, recurring insurance premiums through banks in 1998, according to the most recent data from Kenneth Kehrer Associates Inc., a consulting firm in Princeton, N.J.

Hancock was ranked 12th in sales of insurance through banks in 1998, said Kenneth Kehrer, the firm's principal. He added that he expects the company to be among the top 10 for 1999.

Mr. Mawn, declining to disclose precise results, said life insurance and long-term-care sales were under $5 million last year but up 200% from 1998. He said he expects sales of these products to double this year.

Separately, Mr. Mawn said Hancock has introduced a simplified long-term-care product specifically for bank customers. It has also begun working with First Union Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., to sell its life and long-term-care products and will work with Chicago's Bank One Corp., Mr. Mawn said.

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