Putting more emphasis on insurance sales, Great Western Financial Corp. has moved its insurance program into its aggressive brokerage operation.

The Chatsworth, Calif., thrift has assigned James Overholt, president of Great Western Securities Inc., to harness in his brokerage unit a small insurance sales force currently scattered among three separate agencies.

The insurance program has been "a little disjointed, so we've pulled it all together," Mr. Overholt said. "We're going to be a much more significant presence now."

Like many banks looking to distribute insurance to their customers, Great Western is trying to determine the most efficient and profitable route - without a compass. There are no models to emulate.

"Everyone is hungry for the powers to sell insurance, but many are putting their programs on ice, because they haven't figured out how to make it work," said Karol Sparks, a bank and insurance lawyer at Indianapolis- based Krieg, DeDault, Alexander & Capehart.

Under Great Western's new structure at Mr. Overholt plans to get his 300 investment representatives licensed to sell insurance as well as mutual funds and annuities.

For years, Great Western had a small program selling life, disability, homeowners, automobile and mortgage insurance through 20 agents and nine telemarketers.

The policies were sold through Great Western Insurance Agency and Homecrest Insurance Agency, which operate in various states across the country, Mr. Overholt said.

Those programs are run by Daniel J. Farrad, who reported directly to A. William Schenk 3d, Great Western's vice chairman. Mr. Farrad will now report to Mr. Overholt, who already oversees one of the bank's insurance subsidiaries.

Moving insurance sales into the brokerage unit is fairly unique among banks. Most have tended to keep the processes separate, because financial advisers use different sales methods for selling insurance than with mutual funds and annuities.

But Mr. Overholt believes his brokers must learn to sell insurance because he wants them to offer comprehensive financial planning services.

They're not likely to sell much, according to consultants. Investment representatives despise insurance because it takes too long to explain to customers, said Kenneth Kehrer, a consultant in Princeton, N.J.

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