NationsBank Corp. plans to roll out a pilot program to sell life insurance late this summer, a bank executive confirmed.
The Charlotte, N.C., banking giant will sell life insurance products through its brokerage subsidiary, NationSecurities, said Dean Purvis, senior vice president in charge of insurance. He declined to offer details about the specific products and carriers the pilot program will offer.
NationsBank is among the large banks getting into the insurance business after a Supreme Court ruling last year allowed banks to sell insurance from towns with fewer than 5,000 people.
The bank's initial foray into the insurance business began last May, when it began peddling low-cost term insurance through a toll-free telephone number to middle-market customers. Term life, one of the simpler insurance products, does not have an investment component.
NationsBank's brokerage unit often emulates securities firms, said consultant Kenneth Kehrer. Its insurance pilot is no exception. Since the bank already sells annuities through its investment representatives, this is a natural strategy for its insurance program.
"They want to be a big regional firm," that offers a full investment product menu, Mr. Kehrer said. NationsBank patterned itself after retail securities firms with mid-tier customer bases, such as Dean Witter, he said.
NationsBank's large brokerage staff should help the program succeed, Mr. Kehrer said. The highest level of insurance sales a bank broker can be expected to produce is about $1,500 a month. "That's not huge sales, but NationsBank has hundreds of brokers," he said.
First Union Corp., NationsBank's hometown competitor, began selling term insurance through direct marketing channels at about the same time NationsBank began its efforts.
First Union currently offers life insurance products for estate planning purposes and term insurance through a toll-free telephone number and its Internet web site, said David de Gorter, senior vice president in charge of First Union's insurance group. The estate planning products are sold by a 12-member team of dedicated insurance agents who work with the bank's trust department. Mr. de Gorter said he plans to expand that unit.
The bank's platform investment sales staff sells annuities, but only sells whole life through direct mail marketing.
First Union is one of a handful of banks that took advantage of a "grandfather" clause in federal regulations that does not limit its insurance business to small towns. In addition to term life, First Union offers commercial property, casualty, and group health insurance.
NationsBank was not among the first wave of big banks to sell insurance- like Barnett Banks and Chase Manhattan Bank. And as Mr. Kehrer noted, there are still plenty of others who haven't gotten into the game.