The president of KeyCorp's insurance management unit, David Jarvis, resigned last week to accept an offer from an insurance company.

Mr. Jarvis, 46, told Cleveland-based KeyCorp that he was taking a position at Jefferson-Pilot Corp. to help it launch an initiative to sell its wares through banks.

He will leave his KeyCorp post Dec. 31, and join Greensboro, N.C.-based Jefferson-Pilot Jan. 5 as a senior vice president for financial institution insurance sales.

"The opportunity with Jefferson permits me to use my experience here to help banks nationwide," Mr. Jarvis said. "Most banks don't know where to start."

With the addition of Mr. Jarvis, Jefferson is marking a new way for insurers to break into the bank marketplace - by hiring bankers. Today, most executives running the bank divisions of insurance carriers are salespersons.

Mr. Jarvis is an architect of the bank insurance programs of the early 1980s. In 1982, he started the credit life insurance and traditional insurance programs for Arizona Bank, Phoenix.

Now he intends to mine the bank insurance frontier from a new angle.

"In 1997 you'll see a lot of cooperation between banks and insurance companies you never saw before," Mr. Jarvis said. "I want to be a pioneer of that."

Jefferson-Pilot was specifically looking for a banker, Mr. Jarvis said, and found him through a friend. Officials at Jefferson did not return telephone calls for comment.

Mr. Jarvis arrived at KeyCorp from Citicorp two years ago to help the company consolidate a variety of fledgling, independently run insurance programs in a single, more sophisticated unit. Once there, he cut down the list of vendor relationships from 120 to seven, he said.

Before coming to KeyCorp, he helped Citicorp set up offices in Wilmington, Del., to underwrite credit life insurance. Before the Citicorp assignment, he started up one of the first bank annuity programs in the country for Security Pacific in the early 1980s.

"I think a lot of Jarvis," said James Rensel, a bank insurance consultant in Phoenix, Ariz. "He has a strong background in virtually every kind of insurance sales."

But Mr. Rensel, who knows Mr. Jarvis from the "covered wagon days" of bank insurance sales, said Mr. Jarvis' new task may be his toughest yet.

"Jefferson-Pilot is a late entrant to a market that's already sophisticated and some would say saturated," he said. "What can you do that's new and better?"

Mr. Jarvis seems to think he has the answer. He said Jefferson-Pilot's plans include more than just "dropping off product." He said he plans to take a consultative approach and help bank executives strategically organize their insurance units.

Jefferson-Pilot, which manages $16.4 billion in assets, is mostly known for its universal life insurance products - low-cost policies that also have a savings component. The company will also market through banks traditional whole life insurance too, Mr. Jarvis said.

Jefferson-Pilot already sells fixed annuities through banks, but is not a top-tier player in that arena.

Mr. Jarvis said that Jefferson is resolved to build up its bank business. As evidence, he points to the company's board of directors which has a seat for Hugh McColl, the aggressive chairman of NationsBank Corp., Charlotte, N.C.

"I see a real commitment from Jefferson that banks are a significant part of their future," he said.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.