The financial services giant ING Group opened a division last month to sell insurance and mutual funds through banks.

ING Bank Marketing is working with the 20 U.S. banks that already sell the parent company's products.

And the $450 billion-asset Dutch company plans to offer a handful of banks the chance to market their proprietary funds through ING Group's 3,000 agent distribution network in the United States.

ING, which also started its own mutual fund family last month with $350 million in seed capital, has a raft of U.S. subsidiaries including Golden American, Equitable of Iowa, Security Life, and Southland Life.

"We are combining a lot of the strengths of the companies and distribution systems in order to bring a lot of value to banks," said Michael R. McCoy, executive vice president in change of the Des Moines- based unit. "We want to be a top 10 player in distributing our products to financial institutions within three years."

The new unit has 27 employees and will begin by marketing mutual funds, annuities, and life insurance products, Mr. McCoy said. And ING is looking to buy additional companies like third-party marketing firms and bank- tailored product manufacturers to bolster the new unit, Mr. McCoy said.

Several banks-including one superregional that he declined to identify- have committed to working with the new division, Mr. McCoy said. The superregional will offer its proprietary mutual funds through ING's broker network, he said.

ING Group's broad product array does not guarantee success in the United States. Rather, the company will have to prove it can create a unified program for banks, said Robert L. Nellson, a Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.-based managing director for DeHayes Consulting Group.

"There are a number of European companies that have sizable operations that have declared their intentions in the U.S.," Mr. Nellson said.

Despite the headstart, those companies continue to face vexing problems of creating a unified offering of their subsidiaries' products to banks, he said. ING's bank unit will need to have the political power within the parent company to succeed, he said.

The initial challenge is "how to wrap products and services and the experience we've had into a package for banks," Mr. McCoy said. He was responsible for meeting financial services companies' needs when he worked at American Enterprise Life, Security First Group, and Marketing One Inc.

Mr. McCoy said ING's experience selling through banks in Europe will make it easier to design a seamless program for U.S. banks. The company's first step was to develop a single statement for banks that lists all the subsidiaries' products.

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