National Institute Financial Services is looking to secure a reputation among community banks as the reliable source for financial planning advice, as well as for investment and insurance products.

"I want the NIFS name to become synonymous with quality product, training, and advice for this market," said Robert Gallmann, its new president and chief executive officer.

The mutual fund and insurance distribution arm of the Washington, Pa., financial product distributor National Institute Companies of America is one of the few firms that supplies investment and insurance products as well as financial advisory services to customers of community and regional banks.

This focus has forced the company to be sensitive to the needs of diverse players in the market. "It's tougher to deal with 10 $1 billion banks than with one $10 billion bank," Mr. Gallmann said.

Because community banks tend to fall beneath the radar of the bank distribution channels of many larger mutual fund and insurance carriers, Mr. Gallmann said, he sees room for growth of companies like his.

Too often, small banks that set up direct relationships with mutual fund or insurance carriers do not get full access to the carriers' products and cannot offer as much investment diversification to their customers as the larger banks can, Mr. Gallmann said. Smaller banks also do not usually have the resources to train and educate clients and employees, he said.

Right now NIFS gives its bank clients access to products from 44 different fund companies and insurance and annuity products from eight insurers. It also sells estate planning services, retirement planning, and 401(k) planning to banks through three sister companies.

The more products, training, and advice a company can provide, the more the banks can focus on client relationships, where smaller banks have a primary competitive advantage, Mr. Gallmann said.

National Institute Financial is also considering buying other investment product distributors as well as technology companies. Earlier this year, it acquired Oxford Investment Services, an investment bank in Baltimore, and the Continuing Education Association, a continuing education provider in Fairlawn, Ohio.

Mr. Gallmann would like to see his company cross-sell continuing education and investment banking services to bank brokers and the handful of businesses affiliated with community banks.

He came to National Institute Financial from BISYS Insurance Services, where he created and managed its bank/insurance division. Before that he had been senior vice president of insurance products at Chase Manhattan Bank, where he had created and managed its life and health insurance agency.

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