Gearing up to revive its annuity sales through banks, Lincoln National Life Insurance Co. has hired a marketing officer from an insurer that customizes annuities in joint ventures with banks.

"This is a new position, one which more tightly ties product development and marketplace distribution," said Lorry J. Stensrud, chief executive officer of the Fort Wayne, Ind., company's Lincoln Annuities unit. "Our goal is to demonstrate a more coordinated approach to marketing and product distribution. We must be aggressive in showing clear strategies and solutions to our brokers and product partners."

The marketing officer, William Boscow, "is very experienced with building these key relationships," Mr. Stensrud said.

Mr. Boscow was senior vice president and managing director for Cova Financial Services Life Insurance Co. in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., and had been with that company since 1997.

Ken Kehrer, president of Kenneth Kehrer Associates in Princeton, N.J., said Cova had about $10 million in annuity sales through banks in the second quarter. Cova was a unit of General American Life Insurance Co. of St. Louis, which was forced to sell the division to Met Life Inc.

General American had funding problems and had been placed under the protection of the Missouri Department of Insurance.

Lincoln could take a page out of Cova's book by pursuing joint ventures with banks, Mr. Kehrer said.

"Many of the most successful insurance companies in selling annuities through banks do this," he said. "The Hartford, American General, and AEGON all do this. Lincoln hasn't done it, and I can't see why they wouldn't try."

By joint venture, Mr. Kehrer means designing an annuity for a specific bank and including some of the bank's mutual fund portfolios as investment options.

Lincoln was among the top distributors of fixed annuities through banks in the early 1990s, Mr. Kehrer said, but most of those sales were through third parties.

"When third-party marketing fell out of favor with banks, Lincoln went down with them," he said.

Lincoln placed 15th in the second quarter among insurance companies selling fixed annuities through banks - $47 million, down 15% from the first quarter, Mr. Kehrer said.

Michael White, president of Michael White Associates in Radnor, Pa., said it is likely Lincoln will also market through independent broker-dealers, regional wire houses and specialty brokers. "They've gone through some changes to take more of a distribution focus, and that includes hitting several distribution channels," he said.

Joint ventures between banks and insurers for annuity sales can be beneficial for both parties. About 90% of American General Financial Corp.'s sales of fixed annuities through banks, for example, come from products designed specifically for banks.

Creating an annuity product specifically for banks "could take a while" for Lincoln, Mr. Kehrer said. "As the insurance company, sometimes it takes years to get the bank to agree to choose you."

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