Commercial Union Life Insurance Co. is rolling out to bank clients insurance policies with relaxed underwriting requirements, hoping to make the sale of the products easier.
The Boston-based company has begun offering term, whole life, and universal policies, in which customers can get approval within six days. Most policies take weeks or months for customers to get approval.
"One problem the banks have is that it takes so long to make the presentation, and it makes the customer mad if they get turned down," said Gary Warden, vice president of the financial institutions division.
Several companies are offering term insurance with simplified underwriting standards, but Commercial Union is among the first to add to their menu the more complicated whole and universal life products. And bankers are expecting a wave of these products to come soon.
Selling term insurance has been a good start for them, bankers say, but they are now demanding more complicated products that produce higher commissions.
"Typically when you enter whole life, that's something you plan to hold on to, and that will generate fees over a longer period of time," said Richard White, executive vice president, overseeing brokerage, trust, and private banking at SouthTrust Corp., Birmingham, Ala.
Mr. Warden said about six banks have already begun selling Commercial Union's policies, but he declined to name them.
All customers have to do to get Commercial Union's product is answer eight questions such as: Have you ever had heart disease? And do you suffer from any respiratory conditions? When customers buy traditional insurance policies, they generally have to spend time getting a physical, which often turns them off.
What makes whole and universal life more complex than term is that these policies have an investment component in addition to the death benefit. The lengthy explanation of the product makes the sale hard enough without the customer having to hassle with a physical.
The downside to Commercial Union's product is that the death benefit offered is limited to $100,000.
"What they're tapping is a market of people who don't think they are insurable," said Jack Marrion, president of St. Louis-based Advantage Group, a consulting company.
Mr. Marrion says that most people who have suffered a serious illness at one time assume insurance is too tough to get. Many don't bother looking for it, or automatically turn down an agent's offer, because they don't want to be disappointed once the insurance company reviews their application.