Aiming to double its annuity sales through banks, Jefferson-Pilot Life Insurance Co. has filled a new executive post and plans to add two wholesalers.

The company hired Michael Denton, formerly president of Laughlin Direct, the third-party marketing arm of Beaverton, Ore.-based Laughlin Group of Cos., in mid-November.

His title is senior vice president for financial institutions marketing.

Under Mr. Denton's direction, Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Jefferson-Pilot should double sales within three years, said Dennis Glass, his boss.

The company also plans to add a bank wholesaler to its three-person staff in the first quarter and another in the second.

It also has plans to add about four support employees who will help banks with administration and routine matters over the phone.

Jefferson-Pilot uses third-party marketing firms for half its bank distribution; the additional employees will help it cater to banks that want a direct relationship with annuity providers, said Mr. Glass, who is an executive vice president in charge of the company's annuity business.

"We want to be in a position to go either way," he said.

More and more banks are opting to sell insurers' products without a third-party marketing firm because they can keep more of the commissions that way, said Kenneth Kehrer, a consultant in Princeton, N.J.

"Some insurance companies view third parties as being squeezed out of the major banks," Mr. Kehrer said. "In order to go direct you've got to build up the infrastructure to support the banks."

Jefferson-Pilot's main third-party marketing company is Marketing One of Portland, Ore. It also uses Compulife, based outside Richmond, Va.

Jefferson-Pilot sold $590 million of annuities last year, including $350 million through banks.

Ninety percent of its sales are in fixed annuities, and the rest are in variables.

Before joining Jefferson-Pilot, Mr. Denton had spent nine months on an unpaid sabbatical from Laughlin, traveling with his family. He is the second executive Jefferson-Pilot has hired in the last 14 months from outside the insurance business to sell through banks.

In December 1996 it hired David Jarvis, president of KeyCorp's insurance management unit, to head up sales of life insurance through banks.

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