Wachovia Corp. is expanding its insurance program throughout its core markets and has also launched a direct marketing program for insurance.
The company started offering life, disability, and long-term-care policies last year in a pilot program in several North Carolina cities. The program targeted wealthy individuals and small businesses.
"We're satisfied with what we learned from that process and we're ready to move out into other markets," said David L. Holton, head of Wachovia Insurance Services.
He declined to say how much revenue the business has brought in.
The company plans to start selling insurance in several Georgia markets, including Atlanta, Marietta, and Savannah. It also has plans for Hilton Head, Greenville/Spartanburg, Columbia, and Charleston in South Carolina and Hendersonville, Greenville, Wilmington, and Southern Pines in North Carolina.
Wachovia already sells insurance in Greensboro, Charlotte, Raleigh, and its headquarters city of Winston-Salem, N.C.
The expansion should be complete by the end of March, the company said, and will include the hiring of 12 insurance representatives to complement its current insurance sales force of nine, Mr. Holton said.
Wachovia plans to expand the program to Virginia this year.
The company also intends to start a direct marketing program aimed at its deposit and credit card customers. Products likely to be included are term life, homeowners insurance, and health benefit cards.
The company also intends to expand the number of investment representatives who sell its life products.
Now only those in 10 North Carolina cities sell them. The program will be expanded in the present quarter throughout Wachovia's 150-member corps of investment reps in the Carolinas and Georgia; those reps cover more than 550 branches, selling products like mutual funds and annuities.
Wachovia's approach to the insurance business contrasts with that of its hometown rival BB&T Corp., which has aggressively bought up independent insurance agencies specializing in property/casualty insurance over the past several years.
Mr. Holton acknowledged that his company is taking a more cautious approach.
"We historically have been a build-your-own kind of company," he said. "We wanted to start slowly and build it ourselves."
Wachovia intends to target its own customers and not other banks', he added.
One area where Wachovia is being more bold is in using four-member sales teams to sell customers a range of products.
The teams consist of a private banker, a trust officer, an investment officer, and an insurance officer who work with affluent private banking customers, Mr. Holton said.
Kenneth Kehrer, a consultant in Princeton, N.J., said that the arrangement, which heavily emphasizes group performance in determining bonuses, has gone beyond what most other banking companies have done.
"This seems to be the most bold version of it," he said.
But he said that it is hard to get investment representatives to sell insurance.
The reasons are many: The reps are not as familiar with insurance products as they are with mutual funds and annuities; selling insurance takes longer; and the reps have to wait months, instead of weeks, for their commissions.
The best that brokers in any distribution channel have done at selling insurance is around $1,500 in premiums per month, compared with more than $100,000 per year that an average insurance rep should bring in, Mr. Kehrer said.