Insurance giant Equitable Cos. has hired two executives for its fledgling bank division, including one from a mutual fund titan that is a leading seller of portfolios through banks.

The New York-based insurer, which holds $51.4 billion in assets, last week named Michael Rom national sales manager. Mr. Rom had been an assistant national sales manager at Franklin Resources Inc., the San Mateo, Calif.-based fund company that has ranked as one of the top two sellers of mutual funds through banks.

Equitable has also hired Catherine Jensen, a marketing officer at the investment banking company Oppenheimer Capital, as a marketing officer for the bank division.

Mr. Rom will pursue banks as clients for Equitable and manage the relationships as they come on board, said Jeffrey W. Thornton, president of the company's financial institutions division.

Ms. Jensen will develop marketing paraphernalia and training materials for bank investment representatives that sell insurance products.

Equitable is promoting a fixed annuity to banks, but it hopes to add variable annuities soon. It is known for designing products that fit into a wealthy customer's estate plan.

"Right now, we don't have a single selling agreement (with a bank), but that will change by the end of the year," Mr. Thornton said.

"Our goal is to be at over $1 billion in (annual) sales by the year 2000," he added.

He said he wants to beef up his staff to 15 sales representatives who will market the company's wares to banks.

Equitable started the bank division in June after launching a corporate plan to market its products through distribution channels other than its fleet of agents.

A year ago, the company began selling fixed annuities through stock brokers and financial planners.

Mr. Thornton was hired last summer from McGuinness Group, a company in Newport Beach, Calif., that markets insurance products to banks and brokerages.

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