Memphis, is expanding the menu of insurance products it sells through banks.
Over the next few months, PFIC plans to roll out a full range of products -- including term and universal life, small-group health, and liability insurance -- through a subsidiary, Union Planters Insurance Agency. The products will first be available through Union Planters branches, and by the first quarter of next year Nashville-based PFIC is to begin selling through third-party clients.
PFIC has been selling insurance since 1997, when it began selling homeowner and automobile policies to Union Planters customers by direct mail. This year, life and casualty lines appeared in bank branches.
James R. Arnold, PFIC's chief executive officer, said banks must sell insurance and other investment products.
"There's tremendous competition in the financial services arena," he said. "If you're going to survive and not get swallowed, you're going to have to offer those kinds of products and financial services to your customer."
Though the profit margin for insurance is low compared with other investment products, Mr. Arnold said, it costs relatively little to sell. Most insurance can be sold by the same employees who sell other investment products, and the lowest-margin products -- such as home and auto insurance -- can be distributed through mass channels such as direct mail, telemarketing, and the Internet.
Insurance distribution through banks has been slow to develop. Though banks have been selling life insurance for years, they are just beginning to consider other products, such as property and casualty insurance, said Mary Ann Godbout, a vice president at Conning & Co., an insurance research firm in Hartford, Conn.
That passive attitude was a mistake, she suggested. "It's very difficult to sell life insurance," she said, but everyone needs automobile and home insurance.
For PFIC, insurance is only one component of an ambitious investment product sales plan. The company expects $2 billion of sales next year, an attainable goal, Mr. Arnold said, based on a projected $1.5 billion for 1999.
Alan F. Morel, a banking analyst at J.J.B. Hilliard, W.L. Lyons in Louisville, Ky., said PFIC should have no trouble reaching that goal because its parent covers a larger geographical market as a result of acquisitions in recent years.
PFIC's 80 bank clients have $500 million to $8 billion of assets, Mr. Arnold said. Though PFIC will not begin efforts to sign on bank clients to its insurance program until later this year, he said, he expects all the firm's clients to be interested.
"There's not a bank we have been doing business with that's not talked to us about insurance delivery," he said.