Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. is hoping a team-oriented approach can boost sales, but its effort to align its sales force is a bit too late to be considered innovative.

The Simsbury, Conn., company announced last week it combined sales and distribution for its investment and retirement products into a unit called Hartford Life Distributors. It combines the internal and external sales units, marketing and sales support teams, strategic relationship management groups and business development areas that support Hartford's mutual funds, annuities, 401(k) retirement plans and 529 college savings program.

These businesses attracted $25 billion of deposits from June 30, 2008, to June 30, 2009, and collectively have 240 sales professionals.

Kevin Connor, an executive vice president for Hartford Financial who was appointed to run Hartford Life Distributors, said it is not looking to cut expenses or staff. "This unit is all about growth," he said. "We want to provide a more consistent distribution approach to our advisers. This is all about a team approach. We are calling it 'Team Hartford' locally to advisers."

Connor will oversee internal and external sales and sales support, marketing, strategic relationship management and business development. He led marketing, relationship management and business development for Hartford Financial's investment and retirement products.

Hartford Financial aims to use the unit to support cross-selling, Connor said. "There are a lot of advisers that are Hartford annuity champions, but have no exposure to our mutual funds or our retirement plans," he said. "We really want to find ways to leverage our existing relationship so we can be a more valuable provider."

Analysts said other companies have spent years eliminating silos to increase cross-selling. "It just seems like I heard some companies telling this story 10 years ago," said Burton Greenwald of BJ Greenwald Associates in Philadelphia.

Connor said Hartford isn't interested in assimilating product lines or eliminating people.

"We still need strong specialists in the field," he said. "But if we can take the 401(k) annuity and mutual professional in a single market and get them to work together, they can be more valuable to the financial advisers that they work with. We want to educate them about all of our products and find the solution that is appropriate for them, and perhaps we can build stronger relationships."

Hartford has no specific sales goals for Hartford Life Distributors, Connor said. "The challenge I have been given is that I need to grow all three business lines significantly," he said.

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