Huntington Bancshares reported a dramatic increase in third-quarter revenue from investment product sales.

The Columbus, Ohio-based banking company said brokerage and insurance income increased 45% from a year earlier.

Sales of mutual funds and annuities totaled $475 million for the first nine months of the year, compared with $292 million for the year-earlier period.

Rob Comfort, head of Huntington's brokerage division, attributed the increase to the bank's promotion of its proprietary fixed annuity and to sales training for branch employees in selling mutual funds and annuities.

"This summer we made a concerted effort to get a larger percentage of our platform people selling," Mr. Comfort said. Of the bank's 800 platform employees, 100 had not sold investment products before the summer, he said.

"Huntington as a whole is putting more focus each year on our investment program," Mr. Comfort said, both in terms of "goal setting" and in financial support for marketing, sales staff members, and technology.

Some analysts said the challenge for Huntington is to keep up the pace.

"It's easy to get that kind of growth when you're coming from a small base," said David Trone, an analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston in New York. "It's a good strong effort, but given the scale, (the rate of growth) is not that unusual for midsize banks."

Timothy W. Willi, an analyst at A.G. Edwards in Chicago, praised the sales training program, but attributed much of Huntington's success to the introduction of investment products into branches acquired from Barnett Banks in 1998.

"We won't see that (kind of increase) a year from now," he predicted.

Mr. Comfort disagreed, saying that the training program, a new proprietary variable annuity, and an extensive marketing campaign in 2000 would continue to boost sales. Because Huntington has sold investment products to just 5% of its bank customers, there is a lot of room for growth, he added.

"We've still got a great opportunity out there," he said.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.