John Hancock Financial Services Inc., in a push to expand its bank sales network for long-term-care insurance products, has negotiated about 20 bank distribution agreements for its Advantage Gold long-term-care policies.

Three banking companies recently announced distribution deals for Advantage Gold: First Tennessee National Corp. of Memphis; Huntington Bancshares Inc. of Columbus, Ohio; and Standard Federal Bank, a subsidiary in Troy, Mich., of ABN Amro in Chicago.

Hancock, which was a pioneer in the long-term-care market, is taking a two-pronged approach to selling through banks: offering its Advantage Gold policies through bank-affiliated insurance agents and selling SimpleCare, its abbreviated-underwriting long-term-care policy, using bank employees.

Both First Tennessee and Huntington employ insurance agents, who will sell the product. Standard Federal, which also has insurance agents, has recently agreed to sell a full suite of Hancock life insurance products, including Advantage Gold.

Fran Senner-Hurley, general director of the financial institutions group at Boston-based John Hancock, said about 20 banks have agreed to handle Advantage Gold. She said banks that own insurance agencies, or employ insurance agents, are best suited to sell the product. Bank brokers could also sell it effectively, she added.

"It's at the agent level you're going to see the most success," Ms. Senner-Hurley said. "But some brokers come from an insurance background, and they would get comfortable with it relatively quickly."

Peter Dunlap, national sales manager for retail life at Huntington Insurance Agency Inc., a Crescent Springs, Ky., subsidiary of Huntington Bancshares, said his company's 24 insurance agents, each of whom works with several bank branches, are the only salespeople at Huntington who sell Advantage Gold.

"They work directly with customers referred to them by our platform staff or investment reps," Mr. Dunlap said. "If we didn't have the agents, we wouldn't be able to sell this product."

The only policies sold by Huntington's branch employees are simplified term life insurance.

"They are getting better at selling term life," Mr. Dunlap said. "It's an evolution. In time, they'll be offering some long-term-care insurance, first a simplified version and then, we'll see, maybe a more detailed version. But there is no timetable on it."

Ms. Senner-Hurley said, however, that an underwritten policy such as Advantage Gold is not a good fit for every bank.

"It's not like SimpleCare," she said. "Bank platform reps aren't going to be able to just sell this."

Unlike Advantage Gold, SimpleCare requires a platform salesperson to ask only six questions of the customer, and the policy has no underwriting.

Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance in Westlake Village, Calif., said banks generally gravitate to simpler long-term-care products because complexity has the potential to kill a sale. "If the sale takes an hour and a half and two visits, there is going to be a problem," Mr. Slome said. "Neither the bank nor the bank customer is usually willing to spend that kind of time."

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