Lincoln Financial Group in Philadelphia has completed a restructuring of its sales force of 260 external and internal wholesalers, including 27 dedicated to the bank channel.

The wholesalers have been placed under the umbrella of Lincoln Financial Distributors, a unit the company created last summer.

Each wholesaler will now market products from three Lincoln Financial Group subsidiaries: Delaware Investments, a mutual fund and annuity provider; First Penn-Pacific Life Insurance Co., a Schaumburg, Ill., distributor of term life products through banks; and Lincoln Life and Annuity Co., a New York life and annuity company.

Phil Holstein, senior vice president and managing director of the financial institutions division of Lincoln Financial Distributors, said the insurer expects the restructuring will lead to a substantial jump in sales of annuities, mutual funds, and life insurance through banks.

Lincoln's bank customers "said it would make more sense if they could deal with one point of contact, instead of having one person as a contact for life, another for annuities, and so on," Mr. Holstein said. "Now a bank will have one point person to turn to, regardless of whether they are selling products from First Penn or Delaware or Lincoln Life."

This targeted wholesaling will also give Lincoln the opportunity to sell a wider range of products through banks, he said. "If a bank has a trusted relationship with a wholesaler, there is a good chance the bank will listen if that wholesaler starts to offer a wider range of product lines."

Last year Lincoln Financial Group sold $129 million of fixed annuities, $29.41 million of variable annuities, and $18 million of life insurance through banks, Mr. Holstein said.

Kent McKamy, a company spokesman, said it will expand its wholesaler unit to 320 by Labor Day.

Kenneth Kehrer, president of Kenneth Kehrer Associates, a Princeton, N.J., consulting firm, said streamlining product distribution makes sense for an insurer like Lincoln. "This makes it easier for a bank to do business with an insurer across business lines."

Most insurers are still organized by product groups, so banks must contact different wholesalers for different products, he said. Lincoln's new system "focuses the relationship for the bank," he said.

With its more focused distribution system, Lincoln will also be able to leverage its relationships with banks and sell more products, Mr. Kehrer said. "Now, Lincoln will be able to increase the number of products it sells through certain banks."

If an insurer "has a setup where the life guy is only responsible for getting the life products out to banks, the opportunity to push mutual funds through at the bank might not happen because the mutual funds are sold by a different person," he said.

Banks that sell multiple Lincoln product lines can also capitalize on their relationship with the insurer by asking for better pricing, customer service, or marketing materials, Mr. Kehrer said.

Hartford Life, a Simsbury, Conn., unit of Hartford Financial Services Group, also consolidated its in-house relationship management recently to leverage its annuity sales success.

Bruce Ferris, Hartford Life's director of bank and thrift sales for annuities and mutual funds, said that when banks contacted the company, the top seller of annuities through banks last year, for life insurance information, its investment wholesalers often did not know how to help.

"Clearly, we weren't leveraging our success with variable annuities and mutual funds in the life arena," Mr. Ferris said. "Now when a bank contacts one of our investment people, they'll know who the life person is."

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