Aetna Life and Casualty Cos. is moving its bank-distribution business to Hartford, Conn., from Tampa, and that could mean that the man who has led the bank effort will lose the job.

Robert K. O'Mara, national sales manager for financial institutions at Aetna Retirement Services since July 1996, "has not made a decision as of yet" about staying in his post, a spokesman said.

A person answering the phone in the bank distribution department last week said that Mr. O'Mara no longer worked at the company.

However, according to a company spokesman, it is "premature to characterize his situation as a departure from the company." He declined to elaborate.

In a telephone interview last week, Michael Gilotti, managing director of Aetna's financial intermediaries division, said that the bank channel business was being moved to Hartford, the company's headquarters. The move was part of an effort that included adding more banks and selling more products through banks.

Mr. Gilotti added that Aetna will choose a bank sales chief "when we find the right candidate."

Technically, Aetna's bank sales division has been headquartered in Hartford. But Mr. Gilotti said that Mr. O'Mara spent much of his time working out of Tampa, where he lives.

About 40 banks sell Aetna's annuities and life insurance, and Mr. Gilotti, to whom Mr. O'Mara has reported, said last week that the company plans to add at least 25 banks.

Aetna also plans to start selling its mutual funds through banks beginning April 1, he said. The company manages more than $44 billion in mutual fund assets.

Aetna's sales through banks increased sharply last year. Its variable annuity sales rose to $178 million, from $128 million in 1996, according to Kenneth Kehrer Associates, Princeton, N.J.

More impressively, its fixed-annuity sales last year were $201 million, up from $126 million in 1996, at a time when overall sales of fixed annuities through banks were flat.

Bank sales figures were not available for life insurance.

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