Community First Bankshares of Fargo, N.D., has formed an alliance with Jackson National Life to sell annuities.

The banking company said last week that it had signed on to Jackson National Life's JNL Platform Support Partnership Program to better train its 300 licensed platform workers in the intricacies of annuities.

Community First is to continue using the third-party marketer Invest Financial Corp. of Tampa to support brokerage activities.

But the Jackson National agreement will offer educational opportunities, said Brad Rasmus, a newly appointed senior vice president of financial services at the $6 billion-asset bank.

During the next three months each licensed platform representative is to attend a training session that will deal with annuities and all Jackson National's annuity products, he said.

"Our No. 1 thing is to look at strategic partnerships to focus our efforts," Mr. Rasmus said.

And he said he plans to announce other strategic relationships this year. The company is considering partnerships to sell life, homeowners, and auto insurance to customers over the Internet or through direct mail, Mr. Rasmus said.

When Jackson's program was unveiled in September, consultant Valerie Jordan, principal of Jordan & Jordan Associates in Belchertown, Mass., commended it. She said face-to-face education is better than dial-up support lines for training platform workers to sell annuities.

Jackson National's products are to replace those of Keyport Life Insurance Co., which Community First had offered for three years, Mr. Rasmus said. The banking company was not satisfied with Keyport's field support, he said.

Jackson beat out a number of other product suppliers the company considered, Mr. Rasmus said, because of its proven commitment to bank support.

Another consideration was how the banking company would have contact with the wholesalers, Mr. Rasmus said. Because the bank's 11-state territory straddles many traditional regional boundaries, some providers suggested many regional contacts. But Jackson offered one contact, Mr. Rasmus said.

The Jackson National point man will be based in Chicago, which is in the same region as the banking company's headquarters, said Brad Powell, president of Jackson National's Atlanta-based institutional marketing group. The other five wholesalers are to report to the Chicago executive, he said.

"It is an interesting program because it covers a broad geography," Mr. Powell said.

With a strong sales culture at the bank, Mr. Powell said, "this is an area where we can bring them a lot of value-they need to tie it all together."

Community First is the first banking company to sign on to the full- service program from Jackson National.

Mr. Powell said other banks are using portions of the program and about six are expected to sign up for full support within months.

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