A New England insurer that built its business selling through banks has found a new source of distribution through an alliance with the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants.
"Bankers and CPAs are very, very cautious people," said William Gaffney, senior vice president of corporate development for the Savings Bank Life Insurance Company of Massachusetts, in Woburn. "We consider it a real compliment that they have chosen us."
Savings Bank Life Insurance will train the group's 8,500 members to market its insurance and will help some of them get sales licenses. Accountants have been able to sell insurance in Massachusetts since regulatory changes in 1998 allowed them to accept commissions. CPAs who sell policies will receive commissions, and those who make referrals will get a fee.
Theodore Flynn, executive director of the accountants society, which is in Boston, said the regulations are very explicit about the circumstances under which accountants can and cannot make referrals or sell insurance, in order to prevent conflicts of interest.
"This is not for every accountant," he said. "Not all accountants are going to go through the licensing procedures."
It is against regulations for accountants to accept any commissions from clients whom they audit and/or for whom they do financial statements, which limits the client base for this added service.
Still, "if there are members of the society that want to add this to their practice mix, we wanted to make it available," Mr. Flynn said.
Mr. Gaffney said his company has "a long-standing relationship with banks here in Massachusetts that's worked out very well for us." It was founded in 1907 to provide insurance products for banks to sell and has its own sales force that takes referrals and sells insurance directly, he said.
It operates in Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, has acquired licenses to sell in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut by early next year, and has filed for licenses in Virginia and Delaware.
"Our intent is to take this company national," Mr. Gaffney said.
One advantage he cited of using CPAs for distribution is their high-net-worth client base. Accountants "deal with people who are smart, people who are savvy, and people who have money," he said.
The company is not the only carrier selling through accountants; others include Equitable, Prudential, and Allmerica. Because accountants are often involved in helping people plan their estates, life insurance products are a natural fit, Mr. Gaffney said.