A Springfield, Mass., property and casualty insurance agency is wooing banks with a plan to sell insurance to bank customers while giving the bank ownership of the policies.
Banc Insurance Services, the month-old unit of Eddy & Bulkely Insurance, said it has signed up $1.9 billion-asset Middlesex Savings Bank in Natick, Mass., and is close to signing up three more banks.
Banc Insurance lays no claim to ownership of the resulting policies, renewals, or customer base. The move is an unusual gesture from an insurance agency, said Kenneth Kehrer, a consultant based in Princeton, N.J.
"The bank owning the renewals is an interesting twist," Mr. Kehrer said. "That has some marketing strength to it."
Middlesex, which for a long time has sold savings bank life insurance, had explored other insurance sales opportunities for some time but had balked at pursuing an acquisition, said Brian D. Stewart, senior vice president.
Most agencies have limited product lines and cover only a portion of the bank's 18-town footprint, he said.
Banc Insurance came in with an innovative proposal to help the bank, Mr. Stewart said.
"They're sort of getting us into the business and educating us,'' Mr. Stewart said.
The new relationship will initially add homeowner insurance, auto coverage, and business owner protection plans to the thrift's menu, Mr. Stewart said.
The thrift may buy the policies without taking on any agency employees. That idea is part of the Banc Insurance model to increase revenues. Banc Insurance is helping the thrift find an outside company to offer investment products to its customers. There are five finalists, Mr. Stewart said.
Under the arrangement for insurance sales, Middlesex pays Banc Insurance a flat fee for licensing, education, and setting up the thrift's Weathervane Insurance Agency subsidiary. When sales begin early next year, the bank's agency will get a percentage of gross commissions.
Middlesex negotiated to lower the fee and increase the commission amount in order to give the agency more incentive in ongoing sales, Mr. Stewart said. Sales are made through Banc Insurance Services' phone center. The phone is answered in the institution's name, and billing comes directly from the underwriter with the thrift agency name as agent near the top.
Banc Insurance operations are invisible to customers, said Jeffrey C. Chesky, president of Banc Insurance Services.
Samuel Hanmer, chief executive of Bulkely Eddy, said the plan is to work with banks, not against them, as they gain insurance sales powers. He put Mr. Chesky, who is a former senior vice president at Fleet Bank, in charge of the effort.
Mr. Chesky said banks aren't always ripe for buying agencies. "After the marriage ceremony they look around and say, 'Now what do I do,' " he said.